Gamel's New Leg Kick Sparks Hot Start

SCRANTON, PA - Ben Gamel could not have started off his first year with the Rail Riders any better. Gamel put an exclamation point on this most recent homestead at PNC Field which pushed his average to .404, the highest it had been since being drafted in the tenth round by the Yankees back in 2010.

In the final four-game series at home with Pawtucket, Gamel notched two doubles, a triple and drove in four runs; helping the Rail Riders split with the Red Sox. He looks to continue his hot hitting into May.

After being drafted by the Yankees in 2010 out of Bishop Kenny High School, outfielder Ben Gamel moved up the minor leagues at a rapid pace. The left-handed better tore it up in the South Atlantic League in his first full year with Charleston back in 2012, finishing the season batting over .300.

In 2013, he had stints with both Tampa and Trenton, and was a key bat in the Thunder's championship run. He batted .533 (8-for-15) with three RBIs. Trenton went on to win the championship that year.

Last year, however, in his first full season with Double-A Trenton, Gamel batted a career-worst .261. Even though his bat was consistent in the Thunder's lineup, Gamel was not happy with his average. That is what motivated him more than ever this offseason to improve not only fundamentally at the plate but also to put on some weight to gain power.

"I gained a bit of weight but stayed roughly the same. I felt good when I was at camp and I definitely worked a lot harder than I did in the past," Gamel said.

Entering Spring Training, Gamel started to become more and more comfortable with his swing.

"Spring Training is there for you to get you back into the swing of things, [and] I definitely felt my swing out and got my timing back," he added said.

The 22-year old said that the biggest change for him was actually modifying his swing altogether. Before this season, Gamel had a stride that dominated his swing. That changed this offseason while working with hitting coach Marcus Thames.

"Marcus and I have been talking about getting rid of my stride and giving me a little leg kick. It just got my body out of the way and enabled me to get to pitches I wasn't getting to previously," Gamel noted. "I'm seeing pitches much better now and I'm just giving myself a better chance to hit the ball."

Clearly this new swing is working for Gamel, who is showing flashes of his 2013 postseason brilliance with the Thunder. Gamel says that without the stride, he sees the ball a lot better and manager Dave Miley echoed his outfielder's comments.

"He is seeing pitches very well and doesn't get himself out by swinging at a bad pitch," Miley added. "He's hitting the ball to all fields [and] not trying to pull the ball all the time."

"He is just getting solid at-bats. He grinds them out and seems to get a hit more times than not."

Because Gamel's hitting has been consistently good so far this year, the only facet of his game that Miley wants to see a bit of improvement is base running.

"We are concentrating more on base running, secondary leads and things like that."

With Gamel's smaller build, standing 5'11 and coming into camp (this year) at 185 pounds, he has been known to swipe his fair share of bases in the minors. The brother of former Major Leaguer Mat Gamel stole 13 bases last year for Trenton which was good enough for third on that team behind Ali Castillo and Mason Williams. In 2013, he led the Tampa Yankees in steals with 21.

For Gamel, he is just concerned about putting good at-bats together when given the chance to play, considering the loaded outfield the Rail Riders have. Miley likes having a guy like Gamel on his roster to give him some flexibility with all those options on a daily basis.

"[He] has played all three positions solid and has done a good job in centerfield for us whenever we give Slade [Heathcott] the day off or a DH," Miley said.

However, with such a loaded outfield, how can Gamel keep this amazing pace? Even if his average were to dip, he has definitely raised a few eyebrows this April. But, if he continues to consistently produce, he might very well be called up this September by the Yankees when they expand their roster. But for now, Miley just hopes Gamel continues producing for this Rail Riders team.

"Let's hope he keeps it up. Not only for him [Gamel] but for us, because, it doesn't matter where I put him in the field or it doesn't matter where I put him in the lineup, he's been very good for us," Miley concluded.

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