The hardest thing for young baseball players is staying focused.
It goes beyond staying focused in the batter’s box, on the basepaths or in the field. It extends to all facets of their life, especially once they reach Triple-A, the level where the distractions only multiply.
Of course, worrying about a call-up is one thing, but then there is the threat of a player growing frustrated as he continues to play well, yet there is no room on the big-league roster above him.
Raimel Tapia finds himself in that situation, tearing through the Pacific Coast League and yet unable to move up with such a crowded Colorado Rockies outfield ahead of him.
Ask Tapia about it, though, and he just shrugs off any talk that it’s eating away at him to still be stuck with the Albuquerque Isotopes, even though he was hitting .382/.417/.559 with 12 doubles and 18 RBI going into Monday night’s game.
“I’m happy because the Rockies are winning right now,” Tapia said through bullpen catcher Michael Ramirez as his translator. “I just want to work hard here and do my work. An opportunity will come.”
That attitude does not surprise Isotopes hitting coach Darin Everson, who managed Tapia last season with Double-A Hartford.
“I think that he understands the situation,” Everson said. “He knows that he needs to control what he can control. He did a great job of that last year. If there’s ever a year to learn what you can control, it was that one. He did a great job of that, he does a great job of it here.”
That knowledge of who Tapia is goes beyond just his place in the organization.
“He goes about his business and he knows who he is, which is great,” Everson said. “One of the toughest things players need to learn is who they are. What type of hitter they are, what they can do for sure and do they allow that to be a strength. He does a great job of that.”
To that end, Tapia said he is not focusing on any one aspect of his game.
“I love baseball and I’m just playing every day hard and working on my hitting, running the bases, fielding, everything,” Tapia said, before he went 2-for-4 with two runs, two doubles and a stolen base Monday night in an 8-4 win over the Las Vegas 51s (Mets).
Tapia has a rather unique stance and approach at the plate. What looks almost chaotic is actually playing to a strength of his.
“Tapia does a great job of keeping his barrel through the zone,” Everson said. “He has a tendency to really keep the barrel flat, which gives him to hit the ball hard even when a little off balance. He does a great job with two strikes. He gets into a position where his body can be controlled and then just allows his great hands to work.
“It’s one of those things he does a great job with (hitting with) two strikes. … It’s unique to him, but he lets his hands efficiently and professionally through the zone and that’s why you see so many two-strike hits from him.”
Tapia said his success so far can be traced back to his offseason.
“I was working really hard in the Dominican in the offseason to prepare for this season,” Tapia said.
That hard work is paying off.
“He’s doing everything that we need right now,” Everson said. “He’s coming to the yard ready to play and he’s played great defense already this season. He’s continued to do what he did for me last year at Double-A. He’s just a kid that needs to keep working and do his thing. When an opportunity arises, he’ll be ready. He’s very prepared and he’s excited to come to the field every day.”
Tapia and the Isotopes will wrap up their series against Las Vegas today at 11:05 a.m.