Stegall Improved Before Injury
In 32 games with the Sandgnats, Stegall hit just .196 with six walks in 107 at-bats but he smacked the first home run of his career after nearly 700 professional homerless trips to the plate. To at least get the home run monkey off his back was an good early sign.
"The first home run was exciting because it was the first one. It was a good moment, but it also, I think, showed that I was getting good balance and staying through the zone better," he said.
However, by early June, Stegall found himself back in Kingsport. Yet the outfielder did not hang his head when returning to Appalachian League for the second straight season. More importantly, he saw it as a opportunity to continue the significant changes to his swing.
Primarily for Stegall, he had to eliminate the flaw that was causing his elbow to drop and lengthening his stroke. Combined with a smoother stroke, he was set on taking a more mature approach especially when it came to pitch recognition and tendencies.
"I got the little kinks out that were messing me up and straightened out my mechanics. I really feel good about how my swing has been this year."
"Once my swing was straightened out, I sat down and built a plan of attack for when I get to the plate, what I need to be doing, what I need to look for. I charted down my at-bats and focused on getting ready for the at-bat, rather than just going up there trying to hit," Stegall explained.
Feeling more confident in his swing, he pieced together his most successful period of pro ball yet. In 30 games in Kingsport, Stegall hit .295 with three more home runs and 13 RBI. For the outfielder, there was instant comfort and confidence in his revamped swing.
"Working on all those things in my swing had me feeling better than any other time in my career. I was more confident this year, and my progress had me playing well and kept me going."
Unfortunately the progress was cut short in mid-July when a broken hamate bone in Stegall's right hand cut short his season. Similar to many players, it was a fluke injury that occurred while hitting but the end result was surgery.
Currently, Stegall is in the midst of his rehab but is still just in the beginning stages of his throwing program. It is his goal to be at full speed during the upcoming Instructional League season, but more important are the positives he gained from this season and the appreciation of opportunities offered to him.
"The learning curve can only happen with playing time, and I'm thankful for that playing time" said Stegall. "I can't get any better if I'm not playing so I feel fortunate the organization continues to give me the chance to play there. I think that's what helps my development, now I'm just trying to get better with each game and each experience."
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