Some things that may get pushed to the backburner in the eyes of an aspiring hurler may be the correct way to track down a fly ball or the minute differences in differentiating a splitter from a cutter while at the plate.
Alex Hassan may not be the first ballplayer to make this transition from mound to outfield, but he is the latest in a long line of former players to excel in the field after rustling the rosin bag.
"They told me I'd make a bigger impact in the outfield. I came off a good summer of hitting. I was definitely excited. A little surprised but excited."
Hassan is the latest member of the Sox organization to have his try in the field after a stint on the mound. Everyone knows about Babe Ruth's iconic switch to belting home runs rather than preventing them, but the lesser-known tale is of Ted Williams’ stint trying to get hitters out, rather than becoming the greatest hitter of all-time. Williams pitched as a high schooler out of Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego and signed as a pitcher-outfielder with the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League.
After admittedly getting knocked around in his first couple appearances, the Splendid Splinter stuck to what he did best. (Other notable pitchers-turned-hitters: Mark McGwire converted while at USC, Stan Musial won 33 games in the minor leagues before hurting his arm and sticking to the outfield and Rick Ankiel suffered an infamous playoff meltdown before becoming a capable big league outfielder.)
"Growing up I didn't really know," Hassan said. "It wasn't until my junior year until I thought I realized my future was on the mound. I was drafted as a pitcher. It wasn't until the summer after my junior year that I was told I would be an outfielder."
Another tool growing up that will surely help him during the Futures game at Fenway and hopefully in a future stint at the major league levels was the replica Fenway that he and his family had in their backyard in Milton.
"We had a Green Monster with the scoreboard painted on it, the [Pesky] Pole. We had the Dunkin [Donuts] and Citgo sign. We used to play wiffle ball a lot, so we hit the monster."
There's a good chance Hassan could repeat that childhood performance today, as he has excelled at the plate in Portland this year, leading the team in on-base percentage at .402 and second in batting average at .298. Over the last 10 games, Hassan has hit safely in all but one of them, posting a .417 average in those contests while driving in nine runs.
One would think that a former pitcher may have an advantage at the plate, knowing the ins and outs of what goes on while on the mound, but Hassan doesn't think so.
"I would like to say it has but I don't think it has. There are a million different things that have shaped me as a baseball player. I could give you an example at every level that has helped me.
"I'm sure a certain amount of it is innate. [Getting on base] is something I'm good at – or pretty good at it. A lot of it is understanding what I need to do at the plate. I think that comes from the Red Sox philosophies. Some of it is just being coachable."
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