Hops fall flat in Eugene
There are tough weeks, and there was this past week, which saw the Hillsboro Hops drop all six of their road games versus league rival Eugene.
But while disappointed from a competitive standpoint, Hillsboro manager Vince Harrison stressed the bigger picture when it comes to reacting to wins and losses at the minor league High-A level.
"It wasn't ideal," Harrison said, "but at the end of the day, we just keep reminding ourselves that we're about player development, and sometimes player development is about putting guys in positions to work on stuff and not necessarily playing for wins."
Despite the string of losses, the first-year Hops manager thought they did that this week, citing fielding, batting and situational examples of players getting better.
Obviously, Harrison said both he and his players would prefer to make these same strides while on the winning end of the scoreboard. But in the world of minor league baseball, the goal isn't necessarily for the Hops to win.
"I don't think anyone grew up saying, 'I want to play for the Hillsboro Hops,'" Harrison said. "Their goal is to be a big-leaguer, and we're going to give them every opportunity to do that, and it's their job to go perform and hopefully get rewarded for it."
Four Hops were indeed rewarded following their June 20 defeat in Eugene. Third baseman Buddy Kennedy and pitchers Bryce Jarvis, Blake Workman and Mitchell Stumpo were all promoted to Double-A Amarillo. Stumpo in particular is on quite a rise, as he's ascended from Low-A Visalia up to Double-A Amarillo in just the past three weeks, with High-A Hillsboro a mere pit stop on his voyage through the Arizona Diamondbacks' farm system.
Harrison said informing players they are moving up is one of the best parts of his job, especially since many of these same players were young men he coached and helped mentor further down in the organization during years prior.
"It's always nice to tell a guy that he earned a promotion, and I got to do it four times Sunday," the manager said. "When you've built relationships with these guys over the years, it's even better when you get to tell them their hard work has paid off."
And often it's that "hard work" which Harrison said people don't see or understand when they come to the ballpark to watch a game. He added that players don't just loosen up and play for a few hours each night, but rather they typically get there five or six hours earlier, getting their hitting, fielding, video and other work in before a game that might not start until 7 p.m.
Because of that, he said, part of his job is making sure the players continue to have fun at the park, so it's about "getting to work" opposed to "having to."
"Every day's a fresh start," Harrison said. "No matter the result of the game, it doesn't determine your value or your worth. We want it to be fun, and we want every day to be a fresh start, no matter what happened the night before."
The Hops are home for two weeks, hosting back-to-back six-game sets with Spokane and Eugene June 22 through July 4.
High-A West Standings
Last week's action...
Eugene 5, Hillsboro 1
Eugene 7, Hillsboro 4
Eugene 10, Hillsboro 9
Eugene 10, Hillsboro 7
Eugene 10, Hillsboro 5
Eugene 7, Hillsboro 5
LF Dominic Canzone tallied seven hits with a homerun and four RBI, while reaching base at a .417 clip over his last five games before press time.
3B Buddy Kennedy stayed hot, batting .381 over his last five games as a Hop, including a homerun and three RBIs. The third baseman batted .421 with a 1.163 OPS over the past two weeks.
P Mitchell Stumpo was a solid reliever during his time in Hillsboro, which started May 28, posting a 1.08 ERA with 12 strikeouts and one walk over 8 1/3 innings of work.
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