NEW BRITAIN - Rando Moreno had made up his mind.
The New Britain Bees second baseman had been mired in a prolonged slump since joining the Bees in June, and had watched his batting average and OPS sink to .202 and .484, respectively.
Having struck out in his first at-bat of Wednesday night’s game against the High Point Rockers, Moreno stepped into the box and decided that he was not going to think anymore.
Awaiting a 2-0 pitch from Edwin Carl, Moreno wasn’t going to think his way out of his slide. He was going to swing right through it.
“[Carl] was down 2-0 and I said ‘I’m going to hack this one,’” Moreno said. “It doesn’t matter how, I’m just going to hack it.”
Deciding to swing at a pitch before it’s thrown is likely not the type of advice that Bees hitting coach Chuck Stewart would give, but in this case, it worked out.
Moreno unloaded on a 2-0 fastball and launched it over the high wall in right field to give the Bees a 2-0 lead, and give Moreno his first home run of the season.
In his next at-bat, Moreno lined a single, and suddenly, he wasn’t thinking as much anymore.
All it took was one thoughtless all-or-nothing swing that worked in his favor.
“It was big,” Moreno said. “It helps me a lot. It really helps my confidence. Sometimes when you’re struggling you start thinking too much and that helps you relax a little.”
The Bees and manager Mauro Gozzo knew how much Moreno needed that big hit, which gave New Britain the lead for good, and they poured out of the dugout and celebrated as Moreno rounded the bases for the first time in a Bees uniform.
“We all loved seeing that,” Gozzo said. “He’s a great kid.”
For Gozzo, any offensive production from Moreno is icing on a cake built on defense. Moreno was brought to the Bees to bring defensive versatility, and any kind of slump he has endured at the plate hasn’t endangered his spot in the lineup.
“Any time you get production out of someone that gives you so much defensively as Rando does, it’s great,” Gozzo said. “He’s a defense-first type of player playing important middle infield positions, and as long as he’s doing the little things like moving runners over and getting down sacrifice bunts, he’s going to find himself in the lineup. (Wednesday) was a bonus.”
Still, Moreno wanted to do more and help the team score runs in addition to preventing them. His determination only dug him into a deeper hole, but once he cleared his mind, he realized what he was capable of, even if the approach he took on his home run swing won’t be one he practices regularly.
“It’s been mental,” Moreno said of his offensive struggles. “I’ve been a hitter my whole life, and sometimes you just struggle, and it’s because you start swinging at bad pitches and expand the plate. You start thinking you have to get a base hit.”
Moreno felt he had to break into the hit column, even if Gozzo and the Bees coaching staff sees that as an added bonus to what Moreno already brings to the club. Of course, nobody will complain if Moreno starts coming through in clutch spots like he did on Wednesday.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org