A Nice Audition For Next Season

07/10/2010 – Daily News Record

By Mark Seilig Daily News Record

HARRISONBURG – Patrick Savage said the best advice he’s received came from one of his Auburn baseball coaches telling him to “prepare yourself for when you get a chance.”

While Savage didn’t get his chance during his freshman year of college, the Harrisonburg Turks provided one for him this summer. And it certainly seems like he was prepared for it.

Savage is leading the team with a .320 batting average and has yet to make an error in 173 chances at first base. This week, he was one of six Turks selected to play in the Valley Baseball League All-Star Game, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sunday at James Madison University’s Eagle Field.

“I didn’t get a chance to play much this year at Auburn, so I’m trying to stand out, trying to show my coaches that I can play,” Savage said.

Though he was a highly touted high school player from suburban Atlanta, Savage had to got used to the pine as a freshman for Auburn, a Southeastern Conference power that went 43-21 and was ranked 19th in the final Baseball America poll.

The problem wasn’t Savage – in 10 plate appearances he went 3-for-9 with one walk, two doubles and a home run – it was that his older teammates were just too good.

Of the 14 Tigers who had more at-bats than Savage, all of them hit over .300.

Playing in front of Savage at first base was SEC Player of the Year Hunter Morris, who led the conference in home runs (23), RBIs (76) and slugging percentage (.743) while boasting the fourth-best batting average (.386)

“[Savage] didn’t really get a chance to play much, but when he got the opportunity, he did very well,” said Auburn’s director of player development Link Jarrett, a former Turk who told manager Bob Wease about the player last fall. “He was frustrated. His frustration showed us he really wanted to be a part of it, and prove he can play for us. …Any other college team, Pat would probably have a lot of playing time.”

Savage is using this Valley League season to make a case for more playing time next season as an Auburn sophomore.

A school-record nine Tigers were selected in the top 30 rounds of April’s Major League Baseball draft, including Morris, who recently signed with the Brewers after being picked in the fourth round.

Savage, who missed some of the college season with mononucleosis, said he learned a lot about the game from the veterans in front of him during what became an apprenticeship year. Auburn and Harrisonburg teammate Stephen Kohlscheen, a pitcher who was drafted by the Mariners in April (45th round), said that Savage’s patience will pay off.

“His time will come. Next year, he’ll have a great shot at starting at first base,” Kohlscheen said.

While Savage said his bat is far more polished than his glove, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder’s so-far so-flawless defense for the Turks has drawn radiant reviews from coaches and teammates.

“It’s great knowing that if I happen to mess up, if I throw it short, he’s likely to pick me up,” said shortstop Connor Winn, a Georgia Tech rising junior and Savage’s roommate for the summer.

Both Kohlscheen and Winn join Savage on the South All-Star roster, which will be managed by Wease. Outfielder Shaun Cooper (Arizona), catcher Scott Dalrymple (Oklahoma City) and pitcher Drew Granier (Louisiana-Monroe) are the other South All-Stars representing the Turks.

A home run derby is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and a 60-yard dash for 6 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for senior citizens and $1 for children 12 and under.

Savage said that he’s loving the VBL lifestyle – waking up late, hitting Gold’s gym in the afternoons, and hitting baseballs at night – and believes he is making a positive impact, which his Auburn coaches will surely notice.

Meanwhile, Wease is just thankful that Jarrett tipped him off to the Turks’ eventual cleanup hitter and dependable fielder.

“He just said that Patrick is a very good kid, a very good ballplayer and has a nice future,” Wease said. “And I agree with everything he said. …He’s solid all the way around.”

Patrick Savage was a backup at ultra-talented Auburn last season. His .320 batting average and error-free summer with the Turks might change that.

Patrick Savage was a backup at ultra-talented Auburn last season. His .320 batting average and error-free summer with the Turks might change that. Photo by Michael Reilly