*Each homestand the ‘Topes Tattler will spotlight an individual on the Isotopes for the new segment, “Touching Base.” The blog will be checking in with various players and coaches to give fans an inside look at your 2012 ‘Topes. Make sure to keep checking back to see who is “touching base!”
It’s not too difficult to track down ‘Topes infielder Joe Becker. Day in and day out, he puts in the long hours that an everyday starter doesn’t have to.
Early morning, check, he’s already dressing in the locker room. Lunch time, check, taking swings in the cages. Before batting practice, check, still staking swings in the cages. During BP, after BP, before the games, check, check, check.
Come to think of it, the only place it is hard to find Becker is on the field.
“I’m just trying to get as many reps in as I can,” says Becker. “I know that I’m not taking as many hacks as other guys that play every day, so I try and make up for it in the cage or out here during BP. I don’t really take a day off. ”
As a depth player on the Isotopes’ roster, Becker is featured in the lineup on a varying basis. Sometimes he’ll start for a game or two and sometimes he’ll just pinch hit. Through 28 contests on the season, the infielder has appeared in less than half the games (13) and at three different positions (second, short and third).
“This season is somewhat like last year I guess, where I’m kind of playing here and there at different positions,” Becker says. “I’m just trying to do my job whenever I get a chance and show them that I deserve to hopefully stay here and help the team win.”
Ironically enough, Becker DID help the team win after knocking a pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the seventh that scored the eventual winning run over the I-Cubs on April 19th. However, his Triple-A stint came to an abrupt end as he was reassigned to Rancho Cucamonga (A) for four games, less than 24 hours after his game-winning blast.
“It was definitely a little heartbreaking,” says Becker of the reassignment. “I’m not the type of guy to complain, so I just went down there (to Rancho Cucamonga) and did what I could to get back to Albuquerque. I was seeing some pitches so when I got back here everything was a little more comfortable. Getting in those at-bats down in Rancho helped me out a lot.”
Would you expect anything less from a guy who takes batting practice BEFORE batting practice?
And the extra cage time has paid dividends as Becker has more than made the most of his “here and there” opportunities. He’s completely owned them. In 28 at-bats the ‘Topes fielder is hitting .321, and with runners in scoring position, it’s an almost video-game like, completely unrealistic .538 mark.
Numbers like that normally lead to a starting position on almost any team in the league. But for second place Albuquerque, a known offensive juggernaut, there just simply isn’t a daily spot open for Becker.
“We have so many guys that are doing so well right now, it’s tough,” says Becker of becoming an everyday starter. “We have a great team from top to bottom at every position, so it’s going to be tough with so much competition.”
Which means Becker will have to stick to early AND late hours if he’s to find a consistent spot on the daily roster — A workout regimen that, to the infielder, just means another day at the office.
“I feel like I can’t take days off,” says Becker. “I feel like I have to use every day to get myself more comfortable and keep getting better.”
But even if it’s difficult to improve upon such high numbers, the ‘Topes fielder says he’ll continue to get better if he focuses on giving himself plenty of time in the batter’s box to slow the game down.
“It’s better to be early than late, so I just try to get in the box sooner and be calm instead of rushing everything,” says Becker. “I just try to always be early rather than be late.”
Seems to be a reoccurring theme here.