Lovett's Hard Work Paying Off

Last season Erik Lovett entered into the baseball draft with high hopes only to see the draft end without his name being chosen. Disappointed, he returned to college for his senior year. At this point, however, things are looking up for Lovett.

At that point things didn't look good for Lovett. His junior season was a great one and he wasn't drafted. In 52 games he hit .403 with 46 extra base hits including 21 home runs and an OPS of 1.284. He certainly knew he couldn't top those numbers, so what could he prove in another season?

In retrospect things couldn't have been scripted any better. Returning in 2008 as a senior he was expected to take on a bigger role. Freshmen and sophomores would now turn to him for advice when needed. He handled it all in stride as he lead the Mount Olive to a 49-0 record before going on to win a Division II national championship.

"I was a senior," Lovett said. "It was my last year and we had set goals early of what we wanted to do. It was just a great feeling, being a senior and providing leadership to some of those younger guys and showing them that they can't go back."

Lovett was then awarded for his hard work in what he called the best week of his life. Lovett lead his team to the national championship behind a season where he batted .371 with 18 home runs and 77 RBI's. That same week he was selected by the Yankees in the thirty-ninth round of the amateur draft. He would be assigned to the Staten Island Yankees and had finally accomplished his dream of becoming a professional baseball player.

Since then things have not been so easy. In just about a month in professional ball he has, for the most part, been regulated to bench duty. With sporadic playing time he has only hit .200 over nine games and he's struck out in more than a third of his at bats (11 K's in 25 AB).

Despite his struggles his manager at Staten Island, Pat McMahon, says he is not worried about the powerful 22-year-old.

"I don't think its atypical of a lot of guys," McMahon said. "He's working hard to make the adjustment to the wooden bats and the caliber of pitching that he's seeing. He has to just continue to stay within the system and work hard."

The Staten Island Yankees have a few capable first basemen and because he started the season poorly he has been mostly coming off the bench. That further complicates things because Lovett is used to playing everyday and the time off has affected the lefty's timing.

"He hasn't had much playing time," Staten Island hitting coach Ty Hawkins said. "Look at the number of at bats he's gotten. He's got a lot of timing issues with his swing so I think he's a tough guy to bring off the bench once a week. If he had consistency he'd have better numbers."

After going hitless in his first four games Lovett was beginning to pressure himself. He was the last of the Baby Bombers to get a hit, but when he finally did things started to turn around for him.

"It was great. It was great," said Lovett with the look of a death-row inmate who had just been pardoned. "I was the last person to get a hit. Definitely a good feeling to finally get one. Once you get that first hit you definitely become more confident."

Since then things have come much easier for Lovett. He hit in four of five games while batting .385, or 5-for-13, with a pair of doubles prior to Saturday. But the playing time hasn't improved much as he's only appeared in five games since June 25. Even with limited playing time Lovett knows he just has to work hard and continue to show the team that he capable of playing everyday.

"The times he's been in there he's produced, he's put some numbers up," Hawkins said. "He's got some raw power and he's got the ability to use the right side of the field on anything middle in. So that's a bonus for him and a bonus for us."

"Hitting wise I've struggled early," said Lovett. "But I just have to be patient and get my pitch. I've seen the ball well so far, which is good so I just have to be patient and make adjustments right now. I think I'll be alright. I just have to get in there and keep doing what I know I can do."

Not known for his speed or defense, if Lovett settles down and performs up to his abilities the Yankees have a true left handed pull hitter on their hands. At six-foot-one and 180 pounds he's no Jason Giambi, but he could earn himself a living hitting balls out to the short porch in the Bronx.

But first he has a long road ahead of him. If he is going to put in a lot of work to turn some of that raw power into real hitting ability. In order to get himself into the lineup he has to work on his timing so that he produces in the few spots he does play and his coaches say they'd like to see him shorten his swing a little bit in order to cut down on strike outs.

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