Hubbard's Emergence Sparks Timber Rattlers

APPLETON, Wisc. - The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers started the 2005 season much as everyone had expected. They were hitting for both power and average, their pitching was efficient at worst, their defense was stingy; but more importantly, they were winning games. A month-long team-wide slump had dropped the Rattlers out of first place, and questions began to arise. Who would pull the team out of their struggles? Who would put the team on their back and get them turned around?

The answers came; one from a predicted source, but the other from a slightly surprising spot.

The return of infielder Asdrubal Cabrera was a forecasted lift, as he provided a switch-hitting bat that jump-started the faltering Rattler offense. But arguably the biggest help has been the emergence of hot-hitting first baseman Marshall Hubbard.

Hubbard's onslaught truly came as something of a surprise, not because the Rattler's doubted his ability; but rather because he had seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable at the plate at the beginning of the year.

"It's just one of those things where in the beginning of the year I wasn't playing everyday, so I was trying maybe a little too hard to do well, so I dug myself a hole there," said the Rattlers first baseman. "So now I'm just trying to work hitters' counts, and trying to take nice easy swings and not trying to do too much with it."

Many can pinpoint when the onslaught began. Back on May 17th, Hubbard got the start at first base against Lansing. The left-handed swinging infielder went 5-6 with two home runs and seven RBI, and has rarely left the starting line-up since.

His average before that game: .220. His average after: .261. That average has done nothing but climb, and through Wednesday the North Carolina product has raised it to an impressive .290.

This is the reason the M's drafed Hubbard; for his bat that torched ACC pitching in college. And that bat is only now starting to show. Along with raising his average, Hubbard has six home runs as well. As the weather has started to heat up, so has Hubbard's lumber.

Sometimes it takes that one special night to jump start a struggling player, in this case Hubbard. Prior to that, it seemed nothing could ignite Hubbard at the plate.

"I just think it's one of those things where you go the better part of five months without seeing a pitch and then you're thrown into it and your at-bats are limited," Hubbard said. "I should have been more mentally strong, and now I'm just more relaxed at the plate, seeing the ball and when I get a pitch to hit, just not trying to do too much and make a nice swing on it. "

Although the road looked bleak early on with Hubbard sharing playing time and not getting regular at-bats, the Rattlers' first baseman has straightened out his swing and is currently one of the most feared hitters lurking in the re-emerged Wisconsin lineup. How is this newly formed success going to continue?

"I'm just going to continue to work hard," Hubbard said. "Work hard and continue to work with Tommy Cruz everyday on fine-tuning my swing."

The Rattlers are hoping he does just that, as Hubbard has given Rattler faithful reason to believe that he just may be the man they can ride to a first half title.

Jake welcomes your feedback to this or any of his other stories at

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