Friday, Sept. 3, 2010
By Kevin T. Czerwinski
Maybe its Seth Lomans size that intimidates opposing pitchers. Perhaps its his impressive stat line that has them worried. Or, it could just be the elbow pad and shin guard he wears at the plate that give opposing hurlers the feeling of carte blanche when it comes to pitching inside.
Whatever the reason, opposing pitchers do feel the need to come inside to Loman, who extended his own Carolina League record on Thursday when he was hit by a pitch for the 30th time this year. He broke Rusty Crocketts 21-year-old Carolina League record on Aug. 4 when he was hit for the 25th time. The record plunking comes in the wake of his 2009 season, during which he was hit 23 times while playing at Kannapolis and Winston-Salem.
While Lomans bat hes hitting .290 with 24 homers and 85 RBIs is a big reason why the Dash are heading into the playoffs as the Carolina Leagues hottest team, its his ability to lean into a pitch as much as anything else that has helped the teams offensive cause. The 24-year-old Loman, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs nearly 230 pounds, leads the league with 86 runs scored, is second with 255 total bases while posting a healthy .378 on-base percentage.
I might have to start wearing catchers gear if it keeps up at this rate, said Loman, who saw an eight-game hitting streak come to an end on Thursday. I definitely get hit a lot. I dont think I got hit a lot in college and Im not on the plate that much, a little less than the length of a bat away. People start throwing inside and I guess I dont move out of the way.
I dont have a real answer for it. I know a guy like Craig Biggio got hit a lot and its weird because he was one of those hard-nosed, get on base any way you can types. Im not that hard-nosed middle infield guy.
What Loman is, however, is a hitter, one that can produce. Hes been a pleasant surprise since the White Sox signed him out of the independent Golden League following the 2008 season. He was originally a 47th-round pick by the Angels in 2005 but he had philosophical differences with the club regarding hitting and the two sides parted ways despite the fact he hit .323 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 45 Arizona League games in 2007.
It was never really a good fit with the Angels, Loman said. I never meshed with them and they tried to alter some things with my hitting. It was a constant battle with different philosophies on hitting. I guess thats why I was released. I dont know.
Here I can own my own approach. I dont want to talk bad about the Angels but with the Sox, the managers are your friends and they are rooting for you. They want you to succeed. You dont have to do it their way. They tell you its your career, you have to own. In other places, its more of a college mindset.
Part of the reason why Loman has been able to own his approach to the plate this year has been Sox hitting instructor Jeff Manto. The former utility man played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues and he was of immense help to Loman this year.
Manto encouraged Loman to stay back on the ball more, stay behind it and work off the back leg on off-speed pitches. The results have been impressive.
The hands-on stuff was different than I imagined but I got the whole concept of staying on the back foot to hit off-speed stuff, Loman said. The goal was to become more of an all-around hitter than a free swinger. He said a good hitter should hit any pitch in any count. Im glad Manto spoke those words of wisdom to me.
At first it was tough because I had a couple of different stances this year. I tried to find a common medium and recently it has been coming together a bit. He told me youre the big guy in the four-hole and you have to start hitting that off-speed pitch. I took that to heart.
Aside from Manto, Loman has been able to rely on manager Super Joe McEwing and his father, Doug Loman, who played parts of two seasons with the Brewers, for advice. The trio has helped make the soon-to-be free agent an accomplished hitter. While Loman will be free to sign with another club once this season ends, he says he wants to stay in Chicago and is already thinking about playing in Birmingham and beyond next season.
Id love to be back, he said. Playing with the Sox has been like a dream come true. I hope to be in Birmingham next year.
The Carolina League playoffs start on Wednesday with the Dash likely facing Kinston in the opening round. No doubt, Loman will get hit as well as picking up some hits on the road to a league title.
Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.