Craig Cooper digs consistency

There is a certain obsession with power that permeates throughout the baseball world. If chicks dig the long ball and can get Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine pumping iron to comply, it only makes sense that Craig Cooper has a fascination with it too. Luckily, he doesn't.

With power comes great responsibility – thanks Peter Parker – but it is a lesson learned in baseball. The constant need to add bulk and ship balls out of the yard has skewed the essence of the game – making solid contact and letting the swing and natural ability do what it will.

Craig Cooper could have been seduced by the lure. He could have been captivated with trailing his bat as he stands at the plate to watch the ball he just hit. He could have been bewitched by the enchantment.

Instead, the first baseman wants to be smarter and take advantage of the tools he has.

"I don't feel like it is something I have to do," Cooper said of hitting for power. "I would like to take advantage if I get in a good count, 2-0, 3-1 – some hitter advantage counts that I would like to take advantage of. I don't want to settle for a single but drive the ball into the gaps and hopefully those are the balls that carry out of the park."

This is a kid who hit .320 last year for the Eugene Emeralds. He also placed fifth in the Northwest League in RBIs and on base percentage and fourth in doubles.

He has the tools and just needs some refinement. One of the staples of watching Cooper bat was his low stance. His crouch generated some explosion but left him susceptible to the inside pitch – he simply couldn't turn on the ball.

He went out to the Padres' fall Instructional League and worked on standing up taller to free up his hips and give him the extra tools to pull the ball with authority.

"I was working a little bit on the inside pitch," Cooper explained. "I have a tendency to hit balls middle in to right field a little bit. I was working a little bit more on pulling the balls inside. We will hope that it carries into the season. I worked on it this off-season, standing up a little taller now. I was very low and I felt like it gave me a good center of balance, but now I am working on the same balance from a taller stance to free up the hips and drive the ball a little more."

Subtle, yet succinct. Cooper is doing a lot by not doing too much.

Power is a precarious word. It often comes with a price if there is too much focus put on it. So, the first baseman is taking it in stride and hoping his natural strength will propel him.

Therefore, the swing was just part of the off-season preparation. Cooper hit the weight room hard and ran a lot to up his stamina for the 140-game grind of full-season ball. Understanding that July and August are the toughest of months mentally and physically, Cooper doesn't want to be lulled by laziness.

He is coming in prepared and setting his mind to not give away at bats as the season progresses. How he manages that could be just as vital as the small changes he has made over the past year.

Power? No obsessions here – just honest hard work that Cooper hopes pays off.


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