The Almighty Concepcion

The comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero and even Alfonzo Soriano are very premature, however Ambiorix Concepcion has certainly caused a roar around Key Span Park with many of the Cyclones faithful. Maybe what would cause a fan to compare Concepcion to Guerrero would be that both play right field, both wear number 27, and both are five tool players in the leagues they play at. So what would lead to the Alfonzo Soriano comparisons?

Possibly the similar built of the two Dominican Republic natives. Soriano is 6-1 180 pounds and Concepcion is 6-2 180 pounds. Concepcion, who's listed birth date would make him 22 in October, certainly holds top prospect status in the eyes of Cyclones manager Tony Tijerina.

"He is just coming onto his own. With what I see right now and how much room he still has to grow, he is definitely a top prospect in my eyes" Tijerina said.

The words of his manager nor the comparisons floating around about him do not bother Concepcion. The talk will not deter him from his ultimate focus and goal.

"I don't think anything of it" the outfielder said. "I am in the minor leagues right now. My goal is to be in the major leagues. My focus is to play in the major leagues, and that is all that matters to me."

Concepcion began the season struggling to hit for average, however has since picked it up and has become one of the most productive Cyclone in the lineup. His average dipped to a season low of .231 on July 19, however since that point Concepcion has batted a .318 in 179 at bats. As of August 17, Concepcion leads the team with a .318 average with 6 home runs and 37 runs batted in. His 6 home runs tie him for the team lead and his runs batted in total are good enough for second on the club. He also has nine doubles, three triples and a team high 22 stolen bases.

Concepcion ranks in the top 10 of the NY-Penn League in most of the hitting categories. He is 4th in batting average, 10th in hits, 6th in home runs and 4th in runs batted in. Concepcion is second in the league with 22 stolen bases, however has also been caught stealing a league high 9 times.

So what has contributed to his recent tear?

"I am just working hard everyday in the batting cage with Donovan on my hitting. I am getting more familiar with the pitching now and basically my timing has improved a lot" said Concepcion.

Cyclones manager Tony Tijerina recently heard a different story about Concepcion, one he has never heard of before.

"Well I have heard that he uses a different weighted bat depending on the type of pitcher he faces. I never have heard of that, but if Ambiorix has it down to that much of a science, then he is way ahead of all of us."

Perhaps his biggest negative is the need to understand how baseball is played in America. Last Thursday Concepcion was thrown out at third base trying to steal with no outs. The next day he was thrown out at third base once again, this time trying to steal with one out. On Sunday Concepcion was thrown out at second base in the eight inning trying to stretch a routine single to a double, and earlier in the same game he barely made it safe on a similar play. Concepcion has ran the Cyclones out of many innings and his coaches have sat him down to teach him the "rules" of baseball and making sure his base running is aggressive with intelligence and not reckless.

"Sometimes I see the ball in the gap and I get over excited and think I can make it safely" Concepcion said. "But that is how I am right now. I just have to learn the baseball fundamentals right now and that is why I am here in the minor leagues, to learn."

"They told me how the game is supposed to be played in America. Early in the game you can take that chance if you think you can make it, but late in the game you just have to be real sure that you will make it. My coaches are trying to teach me how I can play baseball better."

Concepcion who say's he was born with the love of baseball began playing in the Dominican Republic at the age of six. As he grew older he played from sunrise to sunset whenever he could have. Concepcion has one motivating factor when stepping into the batters box, and that is to make the person who introduced baseball to him happy.

"I am working hard everyday because I want to play hard for my family. My focus right now is to play in the major leagues one day. "When I am playing defense I try to be the best defender in the league. At the plate I dedicate my game to my parents, I want them to be proud of me."

Concepcion is working extremely hard in the States because he wants to know when he goes back to the Dominican Republic, he wants to feel comfortable telling his father that he played the best he could and tried his hardest.

"The other night I called my father, and he was crying over the phone because I was hitting over .300" said Concepcion. "That is why I am trying to play so hard. I told my Dad I am trying to do my best for you. I am playing well right now so that makes him happy and it makes me happy."

Concepcion is still a work in progress. He is still learning his timing at the plate and adjusting from fastballs to curveballs and changeups. On July 3, Tijerina and hitting coach Donovan Mitchell set up a curveball machine for Concepcion after he struggled the previous three days hitting curveballs. Well in the game later that day Concepcion faced a two strike count and saw a curveball – he singled up the middle to score two runs and tie the game. All that with 2 strikes and 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth.

"He was hitting those curve balls off the machine and you love to see it when a player takes that onto the field with him," said Tijerina following that game.

"I am currently working on my timing especially when the pitchers throw me fastballs. That was my biggest problem early in the season, however right now I am much better. That is my favorite pitch and it does not matter if the pitcher is throwing 90mph fastball or 100mph fastball, because I know I can hit it" Concepcion say's.

Concepcion goes back to the Dominican Republic each winter and works out five and six days a week. Concepcion concentrates mostly on his fielding during those winter workouts, however does take swings everyday at the Mets camp in the Dominican.

"The Mets have a very good camp down there, and they follow the same program as they have in the United States."

Throughout the 15 minute interview Concepcion must have used the word "hard" at least once in every sentence.

"Right now I just have to continue working hard."

Concepcion realizes he is a fan favorite at Key Span Park, and understands why he is.

"I know the fans like me because I just play hard and if you play hard the fans love that, especially in New York."

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