07/08/2008 – Daily News Record
Turks Hope Bama Boy Boosts Them Out Of Slump Written By Mike Barber Daily News Record HARRISONBURG – Baseball is a game of numbers. And that’s fine with Turks first baseman Michael Precise. "I love it and I appreciate it," said Precise, a math major at Troy. "It’s kind of fun. It’s the most basic element and it explains just about everything." But when it comes to his own performance, Precise keeps his pencil and calculator in his desk drawer. "I try not to be too caught up in the numbers when I’m playing it," Precise said Monday evening after the Turks’ game here against Fauquier was rained out. "I don’t want to overanalyze the game because I’m one of those that it gets in my head too much. I kind of bring myself down by thinking too much." That’s the approach Turks owner/manager Bob Wease prefers his hitters to take – especially this season with Harrisonburg struggling through one of its worst campaigns. Wease’s club is 9-17 and in a pack of five teams that will vie for the final two playoff spots down the stretch. The Turks, who play at Staunton tonight, are hitting a Valley League-worst .217, though they are second in the league with 20 home runs. "I think any hitter can get in his own head when you start thinking about that," Wease said. "I don’t think it’s good for a hitter to even think when they go to the plate. The only thing you should do is react. Just go to the plate like it’s the first at-bat of the season." The 6-foot, 185-pound Precise, who played two years of baseball at Wallace-Dothan (Ala.) Community College before transferring to Troy last year, hit .300 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs as a junior this past season. His home run total tied him for second on the team and his RBIs ranked second. With the Turks struggling to hit and score runs, Precise said he finds comfort in numbers and averages – and in the notion that things have a way of evening themselves out. "We’ve had several times when we hit the ball at people," Precise, a Geneva, Ala., native, said. "I know I have. That is a numbers game. They say it all evens out somehow. You always get some seeing-eye ground ball that gets through the infield and makes up for those line drives to the outfield. But we have to put it in play more often then we have." The Turks have been outscored 28-14 in their last seven games, a stretch that has seen them go 2-5, never scoring more than four runs in a contest. In Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to Haymarket, Precise hit a pair of balls that looked like home runs. The first, a first-inning shot that hooked down the left-field line, was ruled foul by the umpire, much to Wease’s dismay. "It was fair," Wease said again Monday. Then, in the seventh, with a pair of runners on base, Precise got just under a hanging curveball, sending it to the warning track in left, where it was caught. Wease wonders when the numbers are going to swing in the favor of Precise and his teammates. "It’s a short season," Wease said of the Valley’s 44-game regular season. "How long does it take for things to start evening out?" Perhaps things started to turn on Sunday. Precise was selected as the starting first baseman for the South squad in the annual Valley League All-Star Game. He went into the game hitting .240 with five home runs, 15 RBIs, 13 runs and 41 total bases. In the ninth inning, with the South down 5-3, Precise delivered a one-out, two-run single off hard-throwing Tyler Thornberg, bouncing a groundball through the right side to tie the game. He finished 4-for-5 with a run and two RBIs. "He should have been the most valuable player," Wease said. "That’s a big night." Not in Precise’s mind. Humble to a fault – he did not want to be photographed in the Hummer he’s borrowing from his older brother for the summer for fear of looking "spoiled" – Precise called his All-Star Game showing "lucky." With 12 to 15 major league scouts watching – according to Wease – Precise said pitchers were throwing lots of fastballs in an attempt to show off their stuff. "I knew that going in, and right now I feel as comfortable at the stick as I have all season," Precise said. "So I was able to get lucky." Luck. Skill. Law of averages. Whatever it’s called, Precise and the Turks need the numbers to add up in their favor more often than not as they push for the playoffs.