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June 19. 2014 11:10PM

On Baseball: Fisher Cats' Chung is catching on quickly

Fisher Cats' Derrick Chung at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, on Thursday, in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

The move from middle infielder to catcher seems to be paying off for Derrick Chung.

Two years ago, Chung was a backup infielder for Class A Vancouver in the Northwest League. Wednesday night he made his second start behind the plate for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Chung, 26, had never caught in a game until his junior season at Sacramento State, when one of the team’s catchers was injured and the other was suspended.

“I was always a shortstop until the year before my last year in college,” Chung explained. “One of our coaches put me back there and said ‘Figure it out.’ Then they told me ‘You look pretty good. Let’s work on it.’”

Chung was Sacramento State’s starting catcher as a senior, but the Blue Jays selected him in the 31st round of the 2012 draft as a middle infielder. He played first base, second base, third base and left field during his season with Vancouver, but caught only one game that season.

Chung said he began catching bullpen sessions with Vancouver, primarily because he was bored. When he got his chance to catch with Class-A Dunedin in 2013, his defensive skills kept him at that position.

He threw out 43 percent of runners who attempted to steal during the 2013 season, and had thrown out 18 of 48 runners who attempted to steal (38 percent) while he was with Dunedin this season before he was promoted New Hampshire this week.

“I still wanted to hold onto it (catching),” Chung said. “It’s always a plus to be able to do a lot of things on the field.

“The hardest thing for me was balls in the dirt, because I was so used to just picking it with my (glove). I worked on blocking (the ball), but the first 10 games into that first season I wasn’t able to block it — I was still picking it. One day I blocked the ball and I was like, “Oh, this is how you do it.”

Chung’s offensive ability had been a question mark, but he batted .320 with a .395 on-base percentage in 49 games with Dunedin before his promotion.

“I’m still trying to get better at pretty much everything I do,” Chung said. “I want to do the little things that the team needs to win a ball game. Just clean it up here and there, trying to get better every day.

“As player you always want to get moved up and face new challenges. I was excited with the call up and looking forward to challenge myself against better competition.”

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AT the start of Thursday night’s game, no fines or suspensions had been announced stemming from Wednesday’s bench-clearing brawl in which eight players — five from New Hampshire and three from Altoona — and New Hampshire manager Bobby Meacham were ejected in the seventh inning of New Hampshire’s 6-5 victory.

The teams were warned after each team had a batter hit by a pitch in the sixth inning, then things escalated when New Hampshire reliever Arik Sikula hit Jarek Cunningham with the second pitch in the seventh and Cunningham charged the mound.

Sikula, K.C Hobson, Dustin Antolin, Mike McDade and Yusuf Carter were the New Hampshire players ejected.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE (29-41) entered Thursday’s game in last place in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division. Altoona (26-42) was in last place in the Western Division. … Thursday night’s game marked the halfway point in the 142-game regular season. New Hampshire’s best record at the season’s midway point came in 2011, when the Fisher Cats were 44-27. The franchise’s worst record halfway through a season is 26-45 (2008 and 2012). … The Fisher Cats are on the road for their next six games: three in Trenton and three in Portland.

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