NEW BRITAIN – Sometimes all it takes is a little swagger.
And, according to New Britain Bees manager Stan Cliburn, that’s exactly what first baseman Jon Griffin has at the plate right now. He’s got swagger.
“You can tell when he’s locked in,” Cliburn said of Griffin. “He’s got that sway, that swagger, a confidence, the whole thing. You can tell. That’s good to see a hitter have that. Hitting isn’t an easy thing to do. Sometimes you need to look in the mirror and say I need a swagger. I see that with Griff.”
“Thanks, Stan,” Griffin said with a laugh in the clubhouse after smashing two home runs in consecutive at bats Tuesday morning in a 4-0 victory over the Bridgeport Bluefish.
The two homers were Griffin’s first two of the season, and continues a red-hot stretch in which he’s raised his batting average 38 points and his slugging percentage by 100 over the last seven games. Just as he did last season in New Britain, Griffin is turning into an offensive force after some early-season struggles.
“I feel a little more comfortable now after getting 85 at bats,” Griffin said after the doubleheader split with Bridgeport. “I’m allowing the ball to get a little deeper into the strike zone and using that part of the field.”
And when Griffin uses “that part of the field,” the coaching staff knows positive results will follow. Both of Griffin’s home runs went over the left field wall.
“That’s big. Last year probably 10 out of his 13 home runs were that way,” Bees hitting coach Craig Maddox said. “When he goes that way, that’s when he’s locked in. He’s got power to all fields. To hit two in a game like that and look very comfortable is great. We capitalized on that. You can’t say enough, the guy hit two home runs.”
Griffin is hitting .360 with the two home runs, a double, four RBI and a walk over the last seven games. He’s now batting .271 on the season with six runs scored, three doubles, a pair of homers and eight RBI.
It’s no surprise the Bees have gone 5-2 as a team over that scorching stretch either.
“Griffin seems to be coming along like he did last year,” Cliburn said. “Starts slow, but turns it on. Both of those home runs turned the tide for us.”
Griffin, who will always have the distinction of being the first ever Bees player to sign a contract with the franchise, ended up leading New Britain in RBI last season, with 67. The former draft pick and Double-A player for the Arizona Diamondbacks organization is hoping the recent hot streak won’t cool off anytime soon.
While Cliburn likes to believe it’s all about swagger for Griffin, the first baseman is just following his routine at the plate.
“I try to keep to my routine, something as simple as taking a deep breath in the batter’s box,” Griffin said. “I’m not really superstitious or anything like that. But if it looks like swagger, I guess that’s a good thing.”
Griffin homered Tuesday morning in the second inning and again in the fourth, going 2-for-3 with three RBI overall. He came up again in the bottom of the sixth, with fans hoping for home run No. 3, but was Griffin thinking about that in the batter’s box himself?
“I’m just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Griffin said. “I’m not really trying to do it again, but trying to almost mimic what I did before because I felt good on the pitch middle-away.”
Griffin ended up grounding out to short, but there was no doubt the first game belonged to the first baseman.
Swagger and all.
Brad Carroll is the managing editor for the Herald and Press.
On Twitter: @bradgameday