FORT WAYNE – Josh VanMeter found a new way to razz hitting sensation Jake Bauers.
VanMeter dubbed him Baby Bambino, and the nickname has spread in the TinCaps’ clubhouse.
Manager Michael Collins pumped the brakes a bit on the comparison to The Bambino, Babe Ruth.
But with Bauers’ continued dominance of the Midwest League, it’s easy to understand why teammates speak of him in tones of awe, wonder and admiration.
The 18-year-old first baseman went 3 for 5 with a two-run single in his latest exemplary performance in Wednesday’s 9-4 win over Dayton at Parkview Field.
VanMeter and (Bauers) were talking trash back and forth to each other, outfielder Ronnie Richardson said. He calls him Baby Bambino.’ I think I can join it because he’s been absolutely killing the baseball.
With Wednesday’s game, Bauers gained enough plate appearances to qualify for the league lead in a number of categories.
He’s the pacesetter in batting average (.379), slugging average (.563) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.016).
Of course it’s nice, said Bauers, who joined the TinCaps on April 25 from extended spring training. It’s still the middle of the season. I’ve got to keep hitting. We’re not done yet.
He shows no signs of slowing down. Dragons manager Jose Nieves moved infielders to the right side, but Bauers has demonstrated an ability to beat the shift.
With that kid, I think it doesn’t matter what kind of shift you use against him, Nieves said. He always puts the bat on the ball. He’s unique. The fact that he can not just hit for average but hit for power in the alley and home runs.
Following Bauers’ lead – he tied the game at 2 in the third inning – the TinCaps went on to enjoy their second straight game of plentiful offense.
Every TinCaps starter reached base safely and the team compiled 14 hits after racking up 18 in Tuesday night’s 10-9 walk-off victory.
The TinCaps (4-2 second half, 34-41 overall) can complete a three-game sweep of Dayton (1-5, 37-37) today.
They are 6-2 against the Dragons and have won the last five in a row.
We’ve still committed probably a few too many errors, Collins said. Pitchers have been able to battle. As a whole, it’s been a lot better. The overall games have been of much better quality.
Now, about that Bambino nickname for Bauers, who batted third for the first time.
It’s a bit early for that, Collins said. He’s been on fire. On fire. Too young to say things like that.
Bauers took it in stride.
We have guys on this team who like to give me crap for doing stuff, he said. It’s all good. Our hitting is clicking. Good team chemistry. We just like to joke around.