A leader is required on a young team trying to find its identity. A team needs that one guy it can rely on to play consistently and to produce from the heart of the order. The Savannah Sand Gnats, as they search for their identity, look to Wabick to steer a team, and a lineup, that floundered through the first half of the season.
D.J. Wabick, a second-year player in the organization, must carry a big stick in the middle of the order to get his team victories and to mature his own game. Coming off a 2006 season, split with Kingsport and Brooklyn, in which he hit .306, the leftfielder realizes that for his squad to turn around a 20-win first half, he must continue the streak he has been on since June 1.
”I slumped in May, and I felt that I was letting the team down. I had to get it going because I am that guy in the middle of the order who is supposed to knock runs in. I wasn’t getting the job done. It was rough but I’ve picked it up in the second half and I need keep the runs coming,” he said.
Struggle he did. He followed up a crisp April when he hit .288 with a home run and ten RBI with a .183 performance in May as Savannah sunk deeper in the standings. He attributed the drop off to the deterioration of his mechanics and timing.
”What it came down to was my timing was off. I wasn’t getting my foot down in time. I’d start my swing; I’d keep my foot up too long and that through my whole swing off. Since my timing was way off, I was getting beat by too many fastballs, fouling too many good pitches off and it went down from there,” he explained.
As May wound down, Wabick dedicated himself in the cage with his coaches. There he found his timing, his footwork and his stroke. Since June 1, he is hitting .353 with a team leading 16 RBI. The 23-year-old never wavered and knew that he would work himself out of his funk.
”I’d say it’s been a productive year so far even though I hit a rough spot in the middle of the season, in May. The dips can be hard to overcome but with good effort, I’m feeling much more comfortable at the plate. I had to tell myself during the rough spots that I was going to get through it and I have,” he said.
Perhaps as Wabick has gone the last three weeks, so has the team. After the Sand Gnats went a woeful 20-50 in the first half of the Southern Atlantic League season, they are off to a 9-9 start after the break. Young players are coming out of their shells and Wabick has set the tone.
”We’re playing much better baseball. We have to keep playing hard. I think we’ve made a lot of improvements and the coaches worked very hard with us on fundamentals and the basics. We all definitely made too many mistakes and errors in the first half. It’s all starting to come together we think. We’ve worked hard, we’re having fun and I think we’re set up for a good second half,” he detailed.
As the summer lies ahead, Wabick knows that what remains of 2007 could be his chance to make a name for himself. The long season allows him to fight through slumps, have patience and realize his own potential. He aims to take advantage in his first year with a full season squad.
”We know we have 140 games to get things right,” he said. “In short seasons, the slumps are more glaring. In the long season, guys can have bad streaks and as long you have those hot streaks to balance them out, by the end of the year you can still have a respectable year.”
Unlike the short season teams, Savannah allows him to see the same teams, pitchers and find comfort on the field. He gains a better understanding of scouting reports and how adjustments are required between times he sees one particular team.
”Getting to know the opposing teams so well, knowing what they will bring at me and how I can tweak my game really will help me in the long run. It will help me know the game more than just stepping to the plate and swinging. Being with the long season team, I think, really lets all of us have a sense of what it takes to play a full professional season from start to finish,” he said.
So far in the second half, he has seen the benefits of the slump-busting he work he completed. What he can do now is put those tools together for an impressive summer.
”I want to keep going offensively. I want to keep implementing things I’ve worked on and keep raking. I hope I have the bad spot of my season behind me so I can keep my offensive numbers up, my defense will come around and I just want to put together a really complete season,” he concluded.