Lakewood Spotlight: Michael Bourn

With the trade of Javon Moran in the Cory Lidle deal, Michael Bourn has officially become the Phillies center fielder of the future. Bourn, who the Phillies took in the fourth round of the 2003 Draft, seemingly won the battle for the title over his draft mate and good friend. Bourn has natural talent, which he's combined with hard work and a strong attitude to succeed.

We know the story well. The Phillies were hunting for speed and found Tim Moss, Michael Bourn and Javon Moran in rounds three, four and five of the 2003 Draft. They were the three speedy musketeers, who were to usher in a new era of Phillies speed on the bases and in the field. They also became tight as friends. "I like having Tim and Javon moving along with me. I think we make a good combination and we all push each other," said Bourn. Ironically, speaking to him just a couple days before Moran would be traded, he also said something prophetic. "I suppose somewhere along the line, we might get broken up, but I wouldn't mind just going all the way to the top with these guys."

Growing up in Humble, Texas, Bourn had a tough choice to make coming out of high school. The Astros drafted him in the 19th round of the 2000 Draft, but he also had the opportunity to attend the University of Houston. "I gave it some thought and I just thought going to school was the smart move for me," remembers Bourn. In college, Bourn continued to develop his skills and major league clubs continued to watch his progress. If not for a broken hamate bone in his junior year, Bourn would have likely been a first round pick. "I hoped to go higher, but as long as I was in the top five rounds, I figured that was pretty good," said Bourn. Actually, Bourn figured that he might wind up in Cleveland as the Indians, along with the Mets and Padres had scouted him heavily and had talked to him about the prospect of drafting him early on the first day of the draft. The injury may have scared them off a little and the Phillies – who had talked with Bourn just once – scooped in and grabbed him as part of their speed movement.

You might have known that Bourn was somewhat destined for a professional baseball career. Early on, his dad started pushing him toward the sport that he loved and played as a young man. Sometimes, the pushing seemed a little harsh for a young Michael Bourn. "There were times when I used to think it was a little rough. Now though, I see why he pushed me and I know just how fortunate I was to have someone like my Dad that was always there," said Bourn. In college, Bourn wore the number "2" as a tribute to his father, who wore the number when he played high school ball. Bourn's father has backed off a little, but still offers a lot of help. "He kind of leaves things up to me now, but he's not afraid to give some advice."

If there is one part of his game that stands out – besides his speed – it is his discipline at the plate. "I just know that I'll be a better hitter if I wait for my pitch. If they walk me, I get to run and that always causes some problems," explained Bourn. In 89 games this season, Bourn has walked 76 times, while striking out 72 times. That, along with a .311 average, has pushed his OBP to a lusty .439 at Lakewoood. "I just like to get on base. That's what it's all about."

When Michael Bourn gets on base, the problems begin for opponents. He was possibly the fastest player in the 2003 draft and with his speed comes a feel for stealing bases. While Moran had stolen 39 bases, he had been thrown out 17 times. Bourn has swiped bases with a much higher success rate, stealing 43 bases and being thrown out just five times. "You have to get a feel for it (stealing). It's not just all speed. You have to watch what the pitcher does and know when it's the right time to go," said Bourn. With Moran out of the organization, Bourn easily leads Phillies' minor leaguers in stolen bases. Scranton's Pablo Ozuna (28) is his closest competition, but Ozuna has been thrown out ten times attempting to steal.

Bourn's numbers are better across the board from his debut season at Batavia last year. With the MuckDogs, Bourn hit .280 with just one extra base hit alll season long. This season at Lakewood, Bourn has 30 extra base hits. Defensively, Bourn is also helped by his speed and natural instincts for the ball. Playing in 87 games defensively, Bourn has made just two errors this season and had just two last season at Batavia. His arm isn't the strongest that you'll ever find, but it's also not the worst. Again, instincts and smart play come into the picture defensively for Bourn. "I work on defense. You have to, it's all part of the game," says Bourn.

With the trade for Cory Lidle, the Lakewood BlueClaws roster took a hit, losing Moran and pitcher Joe Wilson. Still, Lakewood continues to battle and has shown a lot of improvement over the first half of their season. "We're all coming together," said Bourn. "Plus, we've stayed away from injuries. Tim (Moss) is healthy now and that's been a big part of our success."

Bourn figures to make a steady move through the Phillies organization. It's unlikely that he'll be challenged by making a jump to AA in 2005 and will likely head south to Clearwater next season. A late season move to Clearwater this season or a move up the ladder to AA in 2005 wouldn't be out of the question if Bourn continues to put up the kind of offensive numbers that he has shown early on in his career.

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