McCraw Looks Inward

In his first year with a season-long squad, Sean McCraw has impressed. His consistent hitting and work behind the plate have proved invaluable for a young team struggling to find its identity. The 21-year-old aims to be a leader and guide the young Sand Gnat rotation to success. Inside Pitch Magazine caught up with him to discuss the strides he has made so far this season.

This is an excerpt of what appears in the new print edition of Inside Pitch Magazine.

Sean McCraw split time with Kingsport and Brooklyn and showed reasonable power and strong patience at the plate. That performance set the stage for his 2007 promotion to Savannah. To continue his progression and take that next step as a ballplayer, McCraw knew he had to take advantage of the opportunity presented to him.

"Well I think I've been playing well. But I can't get totally content with what I'm doing at anytime," he said. "Being in Savannah with the season leaguers, I must do everything I can and make sure every step I take, is a step in a positive direction."

So far this season, he has done just that. While his batting average remains at 2006 levels (.266 as of May 29), his on-base percentage (.394) and power numbers (three home runs, 15 RBI) are at a higher pace than last year. Thanks to his steady production, Savannah manager Tim Teufel has found it difficult to keep McCraw out of the order even when he elects to give his other catcher, Francisco Pena, a start. When he is out from behind the dish, McCraw has seen time at both corner outfield positions and as designated hitter. Whichever substitute role he fills, suits him well.

"The coaches still look for ways to keep my bat in the lineup since I've been swinging the bat well lately. If the pattern continues as it has been, I'll catch one night; play the outfield one night and a day off the next night. I'll get two days off per week and that's fine by me," explained McCraw.

One of his most important changes is his ability to hit secondary pitches. Last year, like most young players, fastballs did not pose a major problem. However, curveballs and changeups, specifically in hitter's counts, fooled him. That inability denied him any chance of controlling an at-bat. He attributes focused work with his hitting coach, as well as his improved plate vision and patience as keys to his growth.

"I would definitely point to (spring training coach) Tom McCraw. He's probably the best hitting coach I've ever worked with. He's helped me so much with the mental part of hitting and it's shown," said McCraw. "I'm no longer up there just swinging away. I have the patience now to wait for my pitch and know that even with two strikes, I still control the outcome of the at-bat."

Control, an element he needs behind as well. Although young, he is a persuasive and energizing voice for his pitchers.

McCraw admits he would like to see more time behind the plate as the season goes on, but his team-first attitude prevents that detail from manifesting into a larger issue. Production, and a spot in the lineup, takes precedence over split time behind the plate.

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