There was disappointment coursing through Sam Dove when he strained his hamstring in a regional game against Illinois in early June this year. The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft was just a couple days away and Dove knew his collegiate season was now likely done after injuring himself running out a bunt.
But he wasn't disappointed because the draft was looming. He was disappointed because he was playing in the NCAA Regional tournament hosted by Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and Georgia Tech was scheduled to play Vanderbilt later that night. With his hamstring strain, he wasn't able to play.
He had friends and family coming to watch him against the Commodores that night, but he wasn't in the lineup. He wasn't in the lineup for either of the two games the Yellow Jackets played against Vanderbilt, the last of which being a 7-1 loss which ended Georgia Tech's season.
"It was definitely frustrating," Dove said. "It's definitely not how I wanted to start my pro career, but it's over with and I'm ready to go."
Dove, a 14th-round draft pick by the Phillies in June's draft, was assigned to the Williamsport Crosscutters on Sunday after recovering from the hamstring injury and playing nine games with the Gulf Coast League Phillies. He comes to the Crosscutters as a bit of a utility infielder. He was drafted as a second baseman but played the majority of his games in college at third base.
Before being sent to join the Cutters in Aberdeen over the weekend, he was held back from a road trip with the GCL team to learn the fundamentals of playing first base. His only appearance so far with Williamsport came at first base.
It was the first time at any level of baseball Dove has played first base. But Williamsport had the need for a first baseman because the only other one on the roster is Logan Pierce. Catcher Gabriel Lino has worked as Pierce's backup, but he's been forced into full-time catching duties as second-round draft pick Andrew Knapp battles a tendon strain in his right elbow.
So when Williamsport took batting practice at Bowman Field on Wednesday night prior to the opener of a three-game series with Hudson Valley, Dove worked out at first base, fielding throws from Andrew Pullin who was working on turning double plays at second base. It's still a work in progress for Dove who said the biggest adjustment has come in the small responsibilities that come with the position.
Dove's indoctrination to the position came Monday night with Julio Reyes pitching for Williamsport. Reyes, who has a very good pickoff move, likes to throw the ball as hard as he can to first base. Reyes was charged two errors on errant pickoff throws that night.
"The footwork is tough, but knowing where to go on small things like cutoffs, PFPs is tough. And the pickoffs from the pitchers aren't that easy to catch and I found that out," Dove said. "It was definitely a lot of small things you wouldn't notice if you're not playing there."
The versatility Dove has as a defensive player is something he said helped him to get into the lineup at Georgia Tech and he's hoping it can do the same thing for him in pro baseball. When he was a sophomore with the Yellow Jackets he played in left field because he was hitting well enough to be in the lineup, but his natural positions of second and third were taken.
He played both second and third base as a junior, playing nearly the final 40 games at third base consecutively. With a career OPS of nearly .800 with the Yellow Jackets in 193 games, Dove was plugged into the lineup wherever he could help. He's hoping to do the same thing with Williamsport, including playing first base if that's what's asked of him.
"On a roster it's nice to be able to have that one guy that can move around instead of having to call up four guys if a couple people get hurt," Dove said. "I think it'll definitely help me out here."
ROSTER CHANGES: Dove wasn't the only player added to the Cutters' roster during the most recent road trip. Relief pitcher Matt Soren, a 19th-round draft pick out of the University of Delaware was also added.
Soren comes to Williamsport after five consecutive scoreless outings with the GCL Phillies. In six total appearances, the 22-year-old right-hander allowed three runs, but all came in his first appearance against the GCL Blue Jays. In his final five appearances covering eight innings, Soren struck out nine, allowed just three hits and didn't walk a batter.
To make room on the Williamsport roster, pitcher Lino Martinez and Jon Prosinski were both promoted to Lakewood on Wednesday. Prosinski had been maybe the most consistent of the Cutters' starting pitchers, striking out 14 in 16 1/3 innings and walking just three.
Martinez had a 4.66 ERA in seven games in his second season with Williamsport, but struck out 12 in 9 2/3 innings.