Switch to Leadoff Working for Bubela, Missions

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - In case anyone has failed to notice lately, the dog days of summer have definitely set in. With temperatures peeking in the low 100s in San Antonio, the sweltering heat has generated more than sunburns, sweat soaked shirts and sporadic trips to the pool. The Missions offense has benefited from the mid-summer heat as well, igniting many of players' bats, especially that of outfielder Jaime Bubela.

This is not a big surprise for people close to the organization; everyone knows this guy can hit. While Bubela is known to be a slow-starter, he's always seemed to put up solid numbers during the second half of the season. In 2003, his first year with the Missions, he got off to one of those rough starts, hitting only .226 for the first month of the season. This season started out the same way for the outfielder, which put up similarly meager numbers out of the gate. But the month of July was very good to Bubela. The Baylor University product hit at a .330 clip for the month and raised his average all the way up to .300, where it stands after play on Tuesday.

"I guess I am a slow starter, I really did struggle early on in the season, and I don't know why it seems to happen," Bubela said. "I guess it's a good thing to be able to turn things around like I been able to."

Bubela, a fan favorite in San Antonio, battled back from a serious knee injury last season that was supposed to keep him out of action the entire '04 season. He made it back in time to finish the year with the Missions. This season started out with Bubela splitting time with Jon Nelson, but a water cooler incident landed Nelson on the injured list for over a month. Although the situation was disappointing for Nelson, Bubela took advantage of the opportunity, and hasn't looked back since.

"When Nelly went down the team really took a hit, obviously with not having his bat in the lineup," said Bubela. "It helped me knowing that coming to the park every day that I was going to be in the lineup, getting to play everyday was huge."

Correlating with the hot hitting has been the move by Bubela to the leadoff spot in the Missions' batting order. Part of the team's early season struggles was its collective inability to get base runners on ahead of the muscle in the lineup. Since the move, the club has been a better offensive unit, which has only enhanced Bubelas numbers.

"It's something that I haven't done much of, but I like it." Bubela said, smiling at the thought of leading off. "It gives me more at-bats, and gives me a chance to be aggressive, which is my kind of game. It really clicked when I was put in that spot."

Bubela is currently fourth in the league in total hits with 122, right behind the 123 of teammate T.J. Bohn. He also ranks third in stolen bases with 32. These numbers, being put up by the catalyst of the suddenly resurgent San Antonio offense, will hopefully be rewarded with a trip to the post-season.

If and when the Missions do make the make Texas League playoffs, they'll look back to Bubela's hot second half as a major reason why.

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