Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jason Hart

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Despite having the youngest lineup in the South Atlantic League, the Hickory Crawdads lead the circuit in batting average (.281) and on-base percentage (.357), and they rank second in slugging (.424). Lone Star Dugout caught up with Hickory hitting coach Jason Hart to discuss his squad.

Jason Cole: First off, just tell me about today's game. You guys started the series with some struggles offensively but seemed to take out some frustration with the 16 runs and 22 hits today.

Jason Hart: Yeah, that was a fun one. These guys are so talented––these young guys. They compete every day. We're never out of a ballgame with this team. Sometimes, being young, they get away from their approach. And that's basically the number one thing we're working on down here with this team––to have a plan, an approach, and to trust it.

Cole: It seems that Jurickson Profar is one guy who does have a plan just about every time he steps into the box. Can you just sum up his season out here?

Hart: Unbelievable competitor. The kid gets in there and puts the barrel on the ball. When he doesn't try to do too much, he gets in there and he hits the ball hard and it's very easy. He's an intelligent kid. His baseball IQ is off the charts. He's so fun to work with––a good, positive attitude every day.

Cole: Probably the only time he struggled this season was at the very beginning. Did you feel he was trying to do too much then?

Hart: He hit a home run in the first and the second game of the season. I think he started to try and do a little too much. He wanted to hit that home run. Then he got away from that and just started taking the barrel to the ball and stopped trying to make something happen. Just barrel it up and see what happens.

Cole: He's obviously having a great season. But where do you think he can improve even a little more?

Hart: Basically just keep learning the zone. His swing is what it is. It hasn't changed all year. That's how it was in spring training and instructs before that. So he is just going to keep getting stronger and he's going to learn his zone. And maybe he'll get a little more selective in certain counts and stuff. But he's just going to get better with maturity and strength.

Cole: It seems that Jake Skole is getting better as the season progresses. I noticed that he opened his stance a little bit. When did he make that adjustment?

Hart: We just played around with something one day. He was kind of in a little funk, so we decided to have a little fun to just help him see the ball a little better. He's another one of those talented kids that is just going to keep improving when he learns how to use the whole field.

Cole: It has been the same thing with Kellin Deglan, whose numbers are getting better as the season moves along. What kind of improvement have you seen from him?

Hart: That's the unbelievable improvement. He is really, really starting to––his numbers don't really show how much he has improved. He's in there, and he has shortened up his swing a ton. He is learning how to hit the ball to all fields better and pull the ball properly, as you saw today. He is fun to work with––a great kid with a great attitude.

Cole: You worked with Tomas Telis back in the Arizona League a couple years ago. Even back then, he was a guy with great hand-eye coordination and could hit balls in the dirt. How has he developed as a hitter in terms of knowing his strike zone?

Hart: You just stay out of Tommy's way––let him get up there. We don't talk mechanics at all. When he's going good, his zone discipline is better, but he can still hit that pitch off the ground and into the gap. He has improved––to me––just in the small things of the game. Today, he had a sac bunt. He's doing little things like that to develop his game at the plate.

Cole: Josh Richmond has quite a bit of raw talent. What does he need to do in order to gain the consistency?

Hart: We need to get that barrel in the zone a little bit longer. He has shown flashes of what he can do, and it's unbelievable. Just keep working with him. He didn't get a whole lot of at-bats in college due to injury and last year due to injury. So this is the first year that he's getting his AB's. So he is a little raw in that aspect. Flatten his bat out a little bit and get that barrel in the zone a little bit longer, because he's strong. He's a strong kid.

Cole: And he has been able to stay injury-free pretty much all season this year, correct?

Hart: Major injury-free. He is a tough kid, and he's playing through those nagging aches and pains in his first long season.

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