Brian Pointer is taking a positive approach to his time in Williamsport, focusing on having more fun and keeping things simple.
It's what he was doing when he started the season in Lakewood and got off to a torrid pace, hitting five home runs in the first month. But after hitting .295 in the first month of the season, it's been a struggle for the 20-year-old outfielder from Reno, Nev. He hit just .167 in the next month and a half and was demoted to Williamsport just in time to start the New York-Penn League season.
The move to Williamsport, where manager Andy Tracy has plugged Pointer into the third spot in the lineup, gives Pointer an opportunity to play every day. Since Kelly Dugan has returned from an injury for Lakewood, the BlueClaws have four quality outfield prospects, including former Cutters Kyrell Hudson and Aaron Altherr, who Pointer would have had to split time with.
"This is a chance to start fresh," Pointer said after batting practice Wednesday. "I'm here to have fun and get a new, fresh start and hopefully get back up there soon. I have something I have to work on. I got sent down for a reason. I'm here to work on it and get better as a player."
Pointer and Gauntlett Eldemire had Phillies fans buzzing all through April as they both put together hot streaks that were carrying the BlueClaws. Pointer hit .295 during April with those five homers and 19 runs batted in.
Largely, the two were feeding off of each other as Eldemire was stealing bases in front of Pointer, giving him opportunities to drive in runs.
"The game was coming easy to me. Everything was going great and I wasn't thinking too much," Pointer said. "And then you get in too much of a comfort zone and a couple games you see it too good and things kind of go downhill a bit."
Pointer drove in just eight runs in the six weeks after his April hot streak. He said he began to try and do too much. He'd tell himself he needed to get a hit in a certain situation and when he wouldn't get one, he'd get frustrated with himself.
Tracy said it's a common occurrence for players coming out of high school. They're not used to the level of success in pro ball because it's still worse than their level of success in high school.
"Sometimes he's his toughest critic," Tracy said. "(High school draftees) are tough on themselves because through high school they've hit .450 or .500. They've never had a good year where they've hit .300. Hitting .300 in the New York-Penn League and .310 is pretty good numbers. But they've always seen this .400 and .500 average in front of their average. It's time to separate that a little bit and it's hard to do."
Pointer said after his first month hot streak teams in the South Atlantic League began to figure him out and he just wasn't able to make the adjustments necessary to keep going at the pace he was. He's just 1 for 7 in the Crosscutters' first two games of the season.
He said the adjustment he needs to make is quite simple: hit the good pitches when he gets them, and lay off the bad ones.
"That's the way it was when I first got the start I had," Pointer said. "That's all I was trying to do and then I got to trying to do too much."
A young, but talented, Williamsport lineup will be the beneficiary. Tracy got a player he knew he could plug right into the three-hole in the lineup.
Pointer has the track record of being a productive hitter. He had the solid month in Lakewood this year which came on the heels of a season in the Gulf Coast League last year in which he hit .278 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in his first full professional season.
"I put him right in the three-hole because he's played in the Sally League (South Atlantic League) and it's a bit better competition. He's seen some good pitching there. He's probably our most established hitter at this point," Tracy said. "It's always nice to get a guy in the middle of the lineup. He's done everything I've asked and he's working hard. We'll see what happens down the line."
COLLISION COURSE: Andy Tracy had quite the encounter with State College outfield Alex Fuselier during pre-game warmups Tuesday at Medlar Field. Fuselier was shagging fly balls in the outfield as the Crosscutters were stretching in left field and as Fuselier tried to run down a ball, he ran right into Tracy, knocking both men over.
Tracy said he looked up and noticed that Fuselier had a bloody nose. Fuselier ended up being diagnosed with a concussion and was removed from the starting lineup less than an hour before first pitch.
Tracy was uninjured in the collision.
"We were just standing in the outfield and he was power shagging. He just ran into me and we both went down," Tracy said.
The adjustment the Spikes made in their lineup turned out to be a big one as Jodaneli Carvajal was moved to the leadoff spot where he scored three runs, had a pair of hits and drove in a run in the Spikes' 5-2 win.
"The game's been going on for 110 years and teams have always been throwing in the outfield and guys are always doing their conditioning," Tracy said. "Guys get hit with balls. You just have to be aware. Younger kids aren't aware that there are people out there a lot of times, but that's where you have to do your work. We don't have two or three fields like in spring training. It's just another learning curve."
Fuselier didn't participate in batting practice Wednesday, instead watching from the shade at Bowman Field while sitting in a chair.