King working on patience at Padres' Instructs

Every hitter in the system is given the same talk when they enter the San Diego Padres' system. Be patient, yet aggressive. Work the count. If you are swinging, make sure it is a pitch you can handle. Sacrifice a strike if it isn't in your zone.

Tom King didn't entirely grasp that concept when he came to the Eugene Emeralds. A .400 hitter in college, King had the aggressive part down but lacked the patience.

The infielder began the year hitting .141 over his first 15 games – a rut King hadn't experienced before. He heated up the rest of July, hitting .295 before slumping the rest of the way.

King wasn't prone to strikeouts, making consistent contact. But he was swatting at pitches outside of his hitting zone. They may have been strikes – such as the down and away slider that nips the corner and is tough to handle – but the approach that the Padres believe in requires the patience and knowledge to take that strike and work on the next pitch.

King hit .411 during his junior campaign and fell one double shy of the NCAA record with 35 in 2006 for Troy, setting school and Sun Belt Conference marks in the process. His 117 hits this spring bested Adam Godwin's old school record, set just last spring, by 27. He also broke the Troy season marks for games played (63), at bats (285), runs scored (75), runs batted in (73) and total bases (178). King also set school and Sun Belt records by hitting in 31 straight games and by delivering hits in nine consecutive at bats twice.

It is easy to see why he believed in his own approach. Now that he has seen what it is to be a professional, the Instructional League has a special place in his heart.

"I liked to go up and hack at the first pitch," King admitted of his college days. "I am working on being patient."

"I like what you are saying King," vice president of scouting and player development, Grady Fuson, listening in, said.

And he means it. It is a mental stigma, King admits, to take the new approach. He has been successful in the past with his aggressive mindset but he sees the value.

"Seeing more pitches and driving the one I can handle," he said.

Playing for the Emeralds in the Northwest League was also a surprise of sorts.

An eighth round pick in 2006, King was used to seeing quality starters each day but not this caliber.

"Every starter would be a Friday night guy in college," King revealed. "You have guys throwing 90-to-94 and left-handers throwing whatever. There are a lot of talented pitchers out there."

Besides the transition with the bat, King is going through his assimilation in the infield. While King played mostly shortstop at Troy, he was asked to play shortstop and second for Eugene.

He had a .962 fielding percentage at shortstop with six errors in 157 chances and a .969 fielding percentage at second base with five errors in 160 chances.

The differences?

"At second, I use my hands more and at shortstop I use my feet more," King explained.

The season was a learning experience for King. From hitting to fielding, he was put in a position where he wasn't necessarily comfortable. He is looking to advance each of his abilities while in Peoria with an eye on performing at his best in 2007.

As for 2006, King looks back positively. "I thought it was a great season," King said, despite his .231 average. "I had a lot of fun."

With all the work he is putting in now, 2007 could be much more enjoyable.

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