Mad River Union
ARCATA – A Major League Baseball stadium is not the place to watch a .400 hitter.
Arcata Ball Park is.
Four years before the Humboldt Crabs launched themselves like a home run on the local baseball scene, Ted Williams became the last major leaguer to bat .400. That was 1941.
Through its 73 years, it has not been unusual for Humboldt to feature .400 hitters. This season, the Crabs are sending sluggers into the batter’s box, a group that is one of the summer franchise’s best offenses of all-time.
Among players who have appeared in a majority of the Crabs three dozen games, four are hitting well above .350. Those four are Ryan Myers, Devin Lehman, Kyle Callahan, and Jeremiah Burks. Lehman and Myers are in the .390s and seem destined to top .400. And with eight home runs, Myers is poised to tie – and probably break – the single season record of nine.
In Sunday’s 13-0 trouncing of Redding Colt 45’s, which completed a series sweep, the Crabs high octane offense was on display as Humboldt improved to 32-4 on the season with two weeks remaining. With his players batting .320 as a team, first-year manager Robin Guiver said his squad’s scoring is exceeding his expectations.
“If you look at our team batting average, the amount of runs we are scoring on a pretty regular basis, if I knew we were going to get that, I’d know we were going to get a lot of wins,” Guiver said. “And that is what’s happened.”
Ryan Myers aiming high
Myers, a junior from Montana State, is a right-handed hitter who puts plenty of pressure on himself.
“If I don’t set goals for myself, it’s not a real game plan,” he said. “If I know what I’m trying to do, I’m always going to push myself more. I’m never content. I’m always trying to push the number higher.”
Guiver thinks he may be trying too hard to reach the home run record.
“He wants it. I know he might be pressing a little bit trying to get there,” Guiver said. “What got him to eight was good at-bats, not chasing pitches.”
Against Redding on Sunday, Myers drew a base on balls in his last two at-bats. “It was good to see him take those pitches rather than trying to do something with them that wasn’t possible,” Guiver said.
Myers is leading the team with 39 RBIs. “That was my goal, to lead the team in RBIs. Not to be selfish, but to be a contributor,” he said. “I expect that out of myself. I hope to keep adding more.”
“It’s interesting with Ryan because he strikes out a lot for someone who has an average as good as he does, but with his RBI production and power production and batting average, you will never know strikeouts because he’s filling up the stat columns in every other direction,” said Guiver.
Myers admitted he is a little surprised with a batting average hovering near .400. “I’m usually an all-or-nothing hitter. I’m impressing myself a little bit,” he said.
As for closing in on the record for home runs, Myers said he does think about it, but within context of his game. He said that if he just goes with his natural swing, getting No. 9 and hopefully No. 10 should happen.
Most of his long balls have come on off-speed pitches. That’s a bit uncommon. Most prolific home run hitters feast on fastballs.
“Since the ball is coming at more of a downward angle, it lets me hit the ball more up in the air. Sometimes I’m looking for that to launch the ball,” Myers said. “Fastball is the easiest pitch to hit, but pitchers aren’t going to just feed me fastballs, so I have to be good at hitting the off-speed.”
Lehman, Callahan close to .400
Devin Lehman, a redshirt sophomore at Sacramento State, is more of a short ball hitter. Like Myers, his average is in the .390s. The one stat that separates the two is home runs. Lehman has none.
When asked about that, he frowned in a good-natured way as if to say, “You had to bring that up.”
“We’ve got games left,” Lehman said. “It would be nice to get one out of here.”
He said he came to Arcata for the summer to fix a few glitches in his game and to improve overall. “It’s really nice to be playing with such a great group of guys,” he said. “We’re hitting well as a team.”
The third-best batting average among the Crabs belongs to Kyle Callahan, a junior from Lewis and Clark State College. He was batting .368 through Sunday but said he should do better and was glad that it wasn’t lower. He is a player who does not regularly follow his statistics.
“I wasn’t aware of my batting average,” he said. “I go out there to play ball and not pay too much attention to stats. I’m trying to see the ball as well as I can, and work my hardest this summer.”
Callahan is second to Myers in clearing the bases, with 36 runs batted in. He admitted to being more of a fastball hitter, but said success at the plate is knowing how to react to the situation
“Sometimes I pick up things pitchers do to give away their pitch , and sometimes it depends on the count. It’s a feel for what pitch is coming,” Callahan said.
Instinct is just as important as experience when a player is at the plate. Two more Crabs players who definitely deserve to be mentioned when it comes to team leaders in batting – Jeremiah Burks (.358) and Alex Aguiar (.337).
“You never know until the payers get here, but I felt like we would have a good offense,” Guiver said, “and they’ve shown that is the case, for sure.”
As the Crabs enjoy consistency in the batter’s box, there has been inconsistency with this summer’s schedule. San Diego’s team folded, reportedly from a lack of players. Crabs pitching coach Eric Giacone has expertly managed the last-minute scheduling.
Humboldt played Redding Ringtails for the first time yesterday. Today the Crabs take on the team that has given them the most trouble this season – the Humboldt B52’s. One of Humboldt’s four losses is to the Bombers.
“I remember every loss a lot more than I remember the wins,” Guiver said.
With his high-powered offense securing win after win, that could be because there are so few losses to remember.