vs. Lake County
When: 7:05 p.m. today
TV: Xfinity Channel 81
Radio: 1380 AM
Tickets: $12.50, $10, $9, $8, $5 (lawn)
Information: TinCaps.com or 482-6400
Josh VanMeter arrived at his Ossian home one night and delivered a gentle message to his parents.
“Hey, we’re not talking about baseball,” the TinCaps infielder said. “This is my time to get away.”
For all the benefits of playing so close to home and living with his family, VanMeter, a month into this experience, has found one big off-field challenge.
“Everybody that sees me always asks (about games), especially when you’re going through a cold streak,” he said. “It’s tough. It’s something I have to mentally get through.”
Especially since VanMeter has enough to worry about on the diamond. In his first full season of professional ball, the former Norwell star has dealt with a steep learning curve.
“It started off well,” VanMeter said. “Last couple weeks, I’ve been in a slump, hitting balls right at people.”
As the TinCaps begin a three-game series against Great Lakes today at Parkview Field, VanMeter’s progress remains under the microscope.
As the first Fort Wayne-area position player on the TinCaps, VanMeter knows his at-bats carry a little more meaning.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
The first few series, VanMeter felt a burden.
“It definitely adds an element of pressure,” TinCaps manager Michael Collins said.
Approaching the season’s quarter point, VanMeter said “there’s not as much.”
“I’m relaxing,” he said. “It probably meant more in the first couple weeks I was here. Getting in a groove, it’s kind of sailed away.”
One of the wrinkles for VanMeter has been playing second base.
He considers himself more of a natural shortstop since that’s where he played most growing up.
The TinCaps have started him 20 times at second and eight at short.
Collins said the key difference between the positions is the extra step required of a shortstop.
“First-step reaction to get to ground balls, first-step reaction to get rid of it to first,” Collins said. “At shortstop, you need to be quicker. The tempo needs to be picked up. A stronger arm helps.”
VanMeter isn’t sure at which spot his future lies.
“That’s dependent on the decision-makers in the organization,” he said. “When it all comes down to it, a ground ball’s a ground ball. Second, it’s becoming natural. It’s not quite there. It takes a lot of repetition is all.”
At the plate, VanMeter has flied out a bit too often, according to Collins.
VanMeter has an on-base plus slugging percentage of .546 and is getting on base only at a .266 clip.
“On-base is a reflection of good, quality at-bats,” Collins said. “If you put those together, you see that OBP go a little higher to the place you want it to be.”
VanMeter wants to improve enough to advance past low-A by next season.
“You get too caught up in numbers, that’s when you can go downhill,” he said. “The goals were to put myself in a position where I don’t have to come back here next year.”