Roger Brown's On Baseball: Advice pays off
MANCHESTER -- FATHER knows best. New Hampshire Fisher Cats outfielder Brian Van Kirk was reminded of that recently when his dad, Robert, came to New Hampshire and volunteered a few hitting tips.
His father's advice has helped Van Kirk post some impressive numbers in June. Entering Tuesday night's matchup with Reading, Van Kirk was hitting .333 (19 for 57) with 12 RBIs, 16 walks and seven strikeouts in 17 games this month. He had a home run and a triple in Monday's 6-3 victory over Reading.
"My father pointed out a few little things that I wasn't doing that I used to always do," Van Kirk said. "He knows me better than anyone. I made those adjustments and it's helped me stay on the ball a little more, which helps you drive it a little better. Two little things that helped me a lot."
Van Kirk is hitting .297 with two home runs and 22 RBIs overall this season. He was placed on the disabled list twice earlier this year, and Fisher Cats hitting coach Richie Hebner said Van Kirk has benefited from playing every day.
"He's got a good eye — probably the best eye on the team," Hebner said. "He doesn't swing at many bad pitches."
Van Kirk, a converted catcher, was originally drafted by the Red Sox in 2004 out of Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but didn't sign. He played at the University of Tennessee for two years, and then transferred and spent his final two college seasons at Oral Roberts University.
He was used as both a catcher and an outfielder in college. Toronto selected him in the 21st round of the 2008 draft.
"I was fairly new to the outfield position when I got drafted," he said. "Obviously confidence comes with success. Confidence also comes from hard work, and applying that work to your game. I feel very confident where I'm at, but every day is a new day. One day you could be not the goat and the next day you're the goat. You have to approach each day with the same demeanor and confidence."
Van Kirk is in his second full season with the Fisher Cats. He also spent some time with New Hampshire at the end of the 2009 season.
At 27 Van Kirk is older than most of his teammates, but he said he has a positive attitude with regard to his future in professional baseball."If you concern yourself too much with the unknown it will eat you up," he said. "Whatever's going to happen is going to happen. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be on the field playing.
"I just have to continue to play consistent. You don't know what people are thinking above you. We're just the players. You just go out there and take care of what you can take care of. Don't expect anything. Just go out there and enjoy the now."
Fisher Cats relief pitcher Randy Boone hasn't allowed a run in his last 10 appearances (18 2/3 innings). Boone, a former starter, has 15 victories with the Fisher Cats, one shy of the franchise record held by three players: Gustavo Chacin (2004), Ismael Ramirez (2005-07) and Mike MacDonald (2006-08). … New Hampshire will wrap up its three-game series with Reading tonight (7:05). Marcus Stroman is scheduled to start on the mound for the Fisher Cats. Stroman has allowed one earned run in each of his last four starts (21 innings). … The Fisher Cats recognized all of the NHIAA state champions from the 2012-13 school year (all sports) prior to Tuesday's game.