Hooper, Anderson do the little things
Author(s): Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
Date: June 2, 2000
A brief pause to break down a couple of outstanding plays from Thursday's action at Elfstrom Stadium. In the first inning of Game 1 versus White Sox affiliate Burlington, Cougars catcher Dennis Anderson gunned down center fielder and leadoff hitter Chad Durham at third base for the second out. The next batter singled, and the next grounded out to end the inning.
It was just the fifth time in 35 attempts that Durham had been caught stealing, and the play saved a run. Durham had singled, extending what would be a 12-game hit streak by the end of the night, and Anderson didn't get a throw off when Durham stole second base.
"He had just stolen second base, and I didn't get a good grip on the ball," Anderson said. "I just had a feeling that he was going to be going, so I was kind of anticipating before he actually went. I called a curveball, because I wasn't positive he was going to be stealing. I just kind of let everything else take over. I practice it all the time."
Anderson said the throw to third starts out the same as the throw to second, but the distance changes the finish.
"You still want to keep your feet nice and close together, you want to keep it real compact, but the throw's so close, it's really got to be an automatic throw," Anderson said. "Bad throws can happen, but they should rarely happen at third base, I think."
A catcher has to be on his game against Burlington. After Durham in the lineup is Midwest League steals leader Danny Sandoval, who has 33.
"They're just dying to steal," Anderson said. "I try to adjust my pitches in steal situations. I try to give myself a good pitch to throw on. It's all about anticipation."
Though a curveball is not the best pitch with which to nail a runner, Anderson said Cougars starter Marc Sauer was the right guy to throw it.
"It wasn't the best, but Marc's really quick to the plate, he gets the ball to me real quick, even off-speed pitches," Anderson said. "He gets it to me in about 1.2 seconds, which is really fast."
Later in the game, with Kane County up 3-0, Cougars second baseman Kevin Hooper had a fantastic at-bat against lefty Josh Stewart with the bases loaded and 1 out. Hooper worked the count to 3-2, then fouled off several pitches before poking a ball just over the first baseman's head into right field. The hit scored 2 runs.
"I got the full count, and he just kept (throwing) fastball, changeup, fastball, changeup, that was all I was seeing," Hooper said. "I just told myself, 'Stay back, stay back,' because when he throws a change, I don't want to be out front. So I just stayed back, kept fouling pitches off, off, off, finally got a little chip to fall. It all paid off."
As leadoff man in the absence of the injured Chip Ambres, Hooper must work pitchers, and he had a similar at-bat in the second game. He fouled off several offerings before drawing a walk.
"Today was a good day for me. I fouled a lot of pitches off, and that's when I know I'm going pretty good," said Hooper, who led off in each of his four years at Wichita State. "Just keep fouling pitches off, that means I'm seeing it well. That's a much better at-bat. That's how it used to be all the time for me. I told myself yesterday I've got to get back in that mode and just be a tough out at the plate all the time."
Hooper said the key is how you handle your approach with 2 strikes.
"With 2 strikes I'm pretty comfortable, to be honest with you," he said. "I choke up a little bit more than I usually do, and - I'm already on the dish all the time - but I scoot up in the box to cut that curveball off. I just tell myself, 'Two strikes, you've got to battle right here. Be a tough out.' They're going to make a mistake. If you keep fouling pitches off, they're going to make a mistake."
Hooper had an extra advantage in the first at-bat. With the bases loaded, he could eliminate certain pitches from Stewart's arsenal. Not many Class A hurlers are confident enough to throw a 3-2 curve with the bases juiced.
"That's tough to do," Hooper said. "He's going to stay with the fastball or change, because if he throws a slider here and he loses it, he walks in a run."
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