Hill Ready to Rip

After a rocky 2006 season with the Mets in the Florida State League, Jamar Hill returns to St. Lucie for a spring that he hopes will pay dividends for his future. Despite his size and natural power, he struggled to find the consistency which could progress his game. He broke his second day of camp on Thursday and Inside Pitch caught up with the 24 year old outfielder.

Jamar Hill ended 2006 with a broken bone is hand. The dated injury resulted from a past off-season workout. The atypical fracture hindered his's ability to grip the bat and thus any chance of solid connection to the ball. The 6-foot-4 outfielder's off-season workout was not as intensive as many of his colleagues, but he focused on the strength and stamina of his hand and wrist.

"I kept it light in the off-season. I didn't work on the treadmills and not a lot of weights obviously. I mainly stayed to the outfield and got my running in. I worked on my hands and wrist and now they are stronger than ever. It feels a lot better and I'm really excited about it," he said.

With balanced muscle in both wrists, he stepped back into the batter's box to solidify his swing and his approach. His frame affords a large amount of natural power but now he is set on hitting for contact and maturing his swing. A hole existed in his swing, evident by his 77 strikeouts in 251 at-bats in 2006. Now, he aims to spread the ball around and control the strike zone with more authority.

"The ball has to stay above the strike zone. I did a lot drills that helped me control different areas of the plate and go with the ball where it was over the plate. Most importantly, let the ball get to me instead of reaching out for it," Hill explained.

The development of a young hitter requires immeasurable patience and a willingness to fight through failure. Hill, once hasty in his work, realized that he will not find his answers in a flash of brilliance. He is eager to work with coaches and find out how his revitalized hand strength will allow him to progress.

"I would go in the cage and I wanted everything done in one day, I wanted a big league swing after one batting cage session. I know what I want to do, and it's only the 2nd day and I know everything will come out. I just have to execute the way they want me to," said Hill.

Although he has the power to drive the ball out of the park, he is intent on the basics. Hill struggled mightily last year at putting the ball in play. His low batting averages were indicative of his confusion and overextension at the plate. Developing his contact hitting will raise his stature in the system. He is eager for his talent to finally show.

"Each day in and out I need to focus on contact. The power is a given. I'm trying to stay consistent. The injury correlated to my inability to make contact and drive through the ball. The more it comes back, the better I will hit. I can't wait for that," said Hill.

Given his age, he faces somewhat of an unknown future. Older than most early minor leaguers, and at an age that should see him further along than he is, Hill knows his time is now given his new found health. Currently, he breaks camp with peers who spent the winter in competitive leagues, so he has a good amount to catch up. However, this factor combined with the younger talent behind him, drives his desire to make his mark.

"My challenge is that I know I have to stay within my element because I need July swing in shape now. But, I try to look past numbers and short term goals. My goal is play in the big leagues with the Mets. The goals that have substance, or benchmarks, I keep out of my mind because it's like putting up road blocks. I just look for at the great picture and take one day at a time," finished Hill.

Projections still place him in the big leagues, but he must harness all that raw energy first. At this age, he still has plenty of time to excel.

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