A Big D-II Bat

06/09/2011 – Daily News Record

Wingate Star A Hit For Turks Written by Mark Selig Daily News Record

HARRISONBURG – Former Turks assistant coach Jeff Gregory’s message was simple when he sent his Wingate University outfielder Dodson McPherson to Harrisonburg this summer.

“He said I was going to be amazed by the way he hit,” Turks manager Bob Wease said. “He was right.”

After just three games in the Valley Baseball League this season, McPherson had already established himself as a high-impact player for Harrisonburg. Entering this week, the rising senior from Graham, N.C., was batting .615 with two home runs – both bashed in the late innings of Sunday’s 10-8 comeback win over Luray.

McPherson led the league in homers, total bases (17), slugging percentage (1.308), runs scored (five), hits (eight), triples (1) and RBIs (six). And he stole two bases in as many attempts.

“Oh my gosh, it’s unbelievable,” Wease said earlier this week. “Dodson, I think, is a big-time baseball player. Big time. He’s got one little drawback – got four of the five tools – has to work on the arm strength a little bit and he’ll go a long ways in baseball. He’s one of the best hitters I’ve seen here.”

After hitting .400 with 17 home runs, 78 RBIs and 65 runs as a junior at Wingate and leading the Bulldogs to their first NCAA appearance since 2001, McPherson was one of eight semifinalists this spring for the Tino Martinez Award, given to the nation’s top Division II baseball player. (Chase Larsson, an outfielder at Cameron University in Oklahoma, won the award this week.)

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, McPherson has the build to go with his sweet swing from the left side of the plate. So how’d he end up outside of Division I?

“I spoke to some recruiters from Appalachian State, UNC-Wilmington,” said McPherson, who was batting .529 after four games. “They really weren’t willing to offer much. I think it was more that I didn’t get involved in a lot of the showcase baseball in high school. I played football and basketball as well. I didn’t start really focusing on baseball until freshman year at Wingate.”

McPherson said he was actually recruited to be a defensive back for the James Madison football team but decided that baseball was the sport that could take him furthest.

Right now that appears to be sound thinking.

Though Wease said earlier in the week that McPherson would “definitely” be selected in the Major League Baseball draft, and projected that he’d go at about the 30th round, the lefty with the easy accent was not one of the 1,530 players taken when the draft concluded Wednesday evening.

That will make his summer in the Valley even more valuable. The main reason he wanted to play in the VBL is to become acclimated to wooden bats in case he did get drafted. And he wanted to make sure he was peaking as a player before he left school to go pro.

“This summer is definitely important,” McPherson said before the draft. “For me, maybe it’s a confidence boost or a comfort level getting experienced with the wood bat.”

As for that missing tool, McPherson said he’s working on his arm strength, trying to pick up pointers from Turks teammate Jay Gonzalez, who plays at Auburn. McPherson was a right fielder at Wingate, but Wease moved him to left field – a position that typically demands less of a cannon arm.

Wease compared McPherson’s arm strength to former Turk Juan Pierre – the Chicago White Sox outfielder who still doesn’t posses a very strong gun from left field.

Of course, Pierre has enjoyed a successful and prosperous 12-year career in major league baseball because of his other tools. While McPherson can only dream of some day matching Pierre’s achievements – which include a World Series title with the Florida Marlins in 2003 – the new Turk seems to be progressing at a nice rate given his small-school pedigree.

“He’s one of those kids where it’s been sort of a building process the last three years,” Gregory said. “He’s always had potential at the plate, kind of kept learning, kept learning. It all synced up for him this year. Big kid, quick hands, has some pop, real athletic. … This was the first year where he really reached the potential of it.”


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