July 01, 2009 — Note: Many thanks to Jason for pointing out the obvious pick for this month’s Lady’s Choice. Usually, mid-point of the season I’m faced with the decision of choosing one standout athlete over another, or several others. It is most certainly not typical to find myself casting about for inspiration. If you’ve been following the team, though, you know this been an unusual season for our Triple-A ballclub.
Thinking aloud then. . .Jeremy Hill, of late, is having some trouble holding leads. I love Francisco Rodriguez. Too bad he wasn’t around for half the month. Matt Brown and Bobby Wilson have been struggling at the plate. Reggie Willits spent two weeks nursing a sore hamstring. Freddy Sandoval and Chris Pettit are out with injuries until late July at the earliest. Oh have I mentioned, the weather’s been lousy too? Sigh!
It’s true, Brandon Wood has been his consistently awesome self. And I’ve noticed significant improvement in plate discipline, particularly his 23:47 BB:SO (a ratio of 1:2). In all honesty, though, it’s not like yours truly is going to add anything revelatory to the well-deserved praise for this kid’s ongoing development. And yes, I had noticed Brad Coon is steadily upping his offensive production after a slow start. Not to mention, just like last year, he’s an excellent guardian of our 420-foot-deep center field. Trevor Bell? Tempting. His awesome debut is slowly turning, start-by-start, into a Triple-A stay of real merit.
And then I was reminded of having overlooked the bright ray of sunshine in our uncharacteristically cold and dreary June. . .
So, this month’s pick is Adam Pavkovich. Pavkovich was selected in 2003 from the University of Alabama by the Angels in the 11th round, 330th overall pick. He came straight to Provo for his professional debut, where the Crimson Tide alumnus figured out wood bats rather quickly, well enough to earn a mid-season promotion to Single-A Cedar Rapids.* He continued to move up the farm system without a hitch; a full season with Advanced-A Rancho in 2004, and just the briefest of time with Double-A Arkansas before arriving at Triple-A for good in 2005.
*Apparently he suited up for one game as a Salt Lake Stinger that year, although I don’t remember it personally.
Yours truly readily admits having wanted an excuse to showcase Pavkovich for a couple seasons now. He stands out for me not only as a good ballplayer, but one who makes an extra effort to bond with his fans, particularly the young ones.
A BeesGal memory. . .One afternoon in 2007, after a long wait for players to come out onto the field, one young fan literally wilted in his spot. He put his head down, cradled in his arms atop of the concrete wall, and closed his eyes. And there he rested, oblivious to the now-arrived ballplayers talking with and signing for fans along the wall.
Pavkovich stopped and bent down, lowering his head to peer upward into the downturned face.
“Hey,” he said gently. Getting no response, he asked again, “Hey there. Are you OK?”
The small head popped straight up, a startled look upon the youngster’s face. Pavkovich laughed warmly, and spent a few extra minutes chatting before moving on.
Another from 2007. . .Pavkovich appeared a full 30 minutes prior to gametime. He walked along the wall, scanning the rows as if he was expecting to meet someone. Halfway between the dugout and bullpen he stopped. He called up to a boy who looked eight or nine years old, standing with his father about 10 rows up in the stands. The boy and father looked around, and then behind them. They looked back at Pavkovich, who was now holding up what looked to be a brand-new bat, its gleaming walnut finish unblemished by pine tar or ball marks.
“Hi! Do you want this?” he called out, energetically gesturing for them to come over.
The boy remained frozen until finally his father half-pushed them both down the stairs and to the wall. The precious gift signed and delivered, Pavkovich returned to the clubhouse to get ready for that evening’s work.
In 2008, Pavkovich had a break-through year on the diamond. He flashed some power—25 doubles, 4 triples, 22 HR, 80 RBI and 225 TB—while maintaining a nice .280 AVE. That sort of production earned Pavkovich his first invite to the Dominican Leagues this winter and big-league training camp this spring.
Fast forward to Opening Day 2009, and Pavkovich begins his fourth season with the Bees. There have been, of course, a few changes over the seasons. Harper and Nagy are gone. Mitchell and Bennett are in their second seasons as manager and pitching coach.
On April 15th, Pavkovich played his 425th game in a Salt Lake uniform, passing former Buzz outfielder Chris Latham to become the franchise leader in games played. As noted by longtime Salt Lake broadcaster and “voice of the Bees” Steve Klauke, this is a bittersweet achievement, one that underscores a long tenure in the bush leagues. Pavkovich also has taken over the lead in career two-base hits (98), and tied in sacrifice flies (20) with Buzz/Twins infielder Todd Walker. His 19 sacrifice bunts leaves him just three short of Buzz infielder Mike Moriarty (22) and two short of Stinger/Bees infielder Casey Smith (21). Thanks to last year’s bomber run, he also holds sixth place in career homeruns (45).
He’s still the young man who makes the Knothole Club something special. According to local lore, the 23-year-old infielder voluntarily assumed the role of Knothole Club “camp director” soon after his arrival in 2005. This spring, Camp Director Pavkovich once-again led kids and parents on a guided tour of a day in the life of a professional ballplayer.
During the tour he was asked how many bats players receive from Anaheim.
He replied, “Two dozen, which for a good hitter will last all season.”
There was a pregnant pause, and his next sentence was accompanied by that warm smile, “If you’re a not-so-good hitter, you’ll need more.”
He is a man of many gloves, having played all nine defensive positions including catcher (2006) and pitcher (2009). He’s our bottom-of-the-ninth, clutch hitter—whether ripping a walk-off grand slam or laying down a suicide-squeeze bunt for the only, and winning, run of the game.
What more can I say? Save perhaps, it’s been a delight having this young man in a Salt Lake uniform for all these seasons. I believe Pavkovich is eligible for free agency after the end of this year, his seventh since being drafted by the Angels. In that case, I certainly wish him all the best, with just the tiniest selfish hope of getting to meet again for Knothole Club, 2010…Your friend in baseball.
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