The Visalia Rawhide offense has been trying to keep a consistent approach this season and this has been a big reason for their success up to the All-Star break.
Jon Matthews, Rawhide hitting coach, attributes the offensive success to the work that’s being done before the games.
“I try to tell the guys to have a structured routine during the day,” he said. “Something that can raise their comfort level. Do their work before the games, so that they can use that same approach to take into the games. That way they don’t have to change anything.”
Matthews also attributes speed as another reason why the offense has been able to be so successful this season.
“We’re just having a lot of guys with nice years so far,” he said. ”We can run; get the defense out of position. The guys always have a game plan at the plate.”
Playing the offensive friendly California League, you might think that could change your approach as a hitting coach, but Matthews tries to keep things simple with his hitters.
“I try to tell the guys that the game, is the game, is the game,” he said. “The game doesn’t change, no matter where you go. I just want them to have a consistent approach at the plate, keep a calming influence. I try to tell them the right things, one of those things is to not change your approach just because the league is friendly to offenses.”
With Matthews spending his first season in Visalia and a new season with a whole new group of players, there have been some surprises, but they have been positives for the most part, he said.
“We started off the season ultra-hot,” he added. “The hitters have really limited the depth of the rollercoaster to their seasons. They haven’t gotten too low when they’ve struggled. They’ve put in the work and really are an unbelievable group of guys.”
For an offense to be as hot as it has been thus far, there has to be some standouts. According to Matthews there quite a few players that have been swinging the bat well.
“Some of the guys are Jamie Westbrook, who also looked really good in spring training, Daniel Palka and Kevin Cron. Cron skipped Low-A ball and has handled the adjustment very well,” Matthews said.
Cron has been one of the best hitters for the Rawhide so far this season. The first basemen talked a little bit about his first full season in professional baseball, after being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 out of Texas Christian University.
“My dad coached in pro ball, so I knew a little bit of what to expect,” he said. “I just try to have an approach at the plate, and don’t stray from that approach. I just have to stay true to who I am as a player and don’t do too much at the plate.”
Cron also talked about some of the goals he has set for himself, both short term and long term.
“As a player, you have to assess who you are from a statistical standpoint, and that’s what I’m doing; just sticking to who I am as a player,” he said. “I got hot coming into this year, I just have to be able to stick to it and work to keep with my approach.”
Coming from the college game, Cron does see differences with it and the pro game, but admits that he does like the professional style of game a little better.
“The game is played differently,” he said. “There is more small-ball offense in college and that wasn’t what I did best and I struggled. I struggled in college, but I believe I’m better for it now as a hitter.”
Cron talked about some aspects of his game that he feels he needs to work on, and he believes it is all between the ears.
“I feel I need to improve on the mental side of the game,” he said. “The next step is to stick to an approach, don’t slack on work and continue to think the same thing at the plate. Just stay consistent.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Cron discussed some aspects of his game that he is happy with so far this season.
“I’m getting better in my work before the games,” he said. “I make a conscious effort in practice and let that carry over. I used to go through the motions in pre-game, but I take pride in that work now. I try to take 100 swings in batting practice.”
With the California League being famous for its friendly offense, Cron naturally was encouraged to find out he was heading there, but in the end it still is professional level competition.
“It really is a hitter’s league, and I was excited when I found out I was coming here, because the fields are small, but there still is good pitching here and you still have to have the power to hit the ball out of the park,” he said.