It's not often I get excited about a player getting a walk.
But I have to make an exception for Chandler Laurent's leadoff at bat in the first inning of Monday's 3-1 win over Eugene.
Laurent, who should get his share of starts in the outfield this season, started off on the wrong foot as Emeralds pitcher Pedro Martinez (no, not THAT Pedro Martinez) rang him up for two quick strikes.
But Laurent was patient, taking the next pitch for a ball. Then fouling off another strike. Then taking another ball. And so on, and so on. Before you knew it, Laurent fouled off five pitches, and his plate discipline had helped bring the count to 3-2.
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Finally, Martinez's 10th pitch of the at bat came in off the mark, and Laurent strode to first. I couldn't hear what was going on in the dugout, but I can imagine there was some noise coming from the bench. Laurent certainly deserved some cheers after that.
But he didn't stop there. With the No. 2 hitter Carlos Martinez at the plate, Laurent stole his second base of the year. The right-handed Martinez, with another piece of good hitting, took the next pitch to the opposite field, directing a sacrifice grounder to second base so Laurent could easily make it to third.
Not to mention, Leonardo Reyes had another good plate appearance after Martinez, drawing a walk on four pitches and then advancing to second on a passed ball.
The next hitter, Chad Jacobsen, singled home both Laurent and Reyes to give Tri-City a 2-0 lead.
I remember remarking in my live game blog that the Dust Devils seemed to be pretty good at executing a 'small-ball' type approach. I talked to Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio after the game, and he pointed out that's something you need — especially at Gesa Stadium, where even the hardest hit balls to the outfield can be knocked down by the strong winds that often blow in from the outfield.
But if players can keep stringing good at bats together this season like Laurent and Martinez did Monday, the Dust Devils could have an extremely productive season. And I'm not just talking wins. I'm talking about players getting opportunities to advance to higher levels because of their ability to execute.
It may sound silly from a fan's standpoint, but in the minor leagues that's really what it's all about.