Speeding Back !

7/15/2010 – Daily News Record

Sosa May Help the Turks Win Again Marcus Helton Daily News Record

HARRISONBURG – Reuben Sosa was never one of the biggest or strongest kids growing up. He was nearly always the fastest, though, and that has its advantages.

“That’s my real weapon,” the Harrisonburg Turks’ center fielder said this week, “because with speed, I can bunt [to get on base], you know? Even if I’m not doing it at the plate, I can play defense and try to take away balls in the gap and take some runs off the board for the other team. Speed is a major thing in baseball.”

Indeed, those wheels – which Sosa used to steal about 40 bases at Western Oklahoma State (Junior) College in the spring – could potentially be a key weapon for the Turks, provided Sosa can get back to full strength following a foot injury. He recently returned to Harrisonburg after going home to Boston for two weeks to rest his sore left foot, which he fouled a ball off of in his first game with the team last month.

“It was hurting, but I just kept on playing,” Sosa said. “I didn’t put any, like, mind to it. Then there was one game that I couldn’t even run – I was just limping, and I knew there was something wrong. So I went to check it and they told me I had, like, a bone bruise, and there was nothing I could do but let it heal for a couple of weeks.”

The 5-foot-7, 168-pounder said he feels about 95 percent healed, and that could provide a much-needed spark to a Harrisonburg lineup that has struggled in recent weeks. Coming into tonight’s game at Luray, the Turks (15-12) have lost seven of their last 10 games. The slide has dropped them into fourth place in the 11-team Valley League, and it comes after a hot stretch that had seen them win 11 of their previous 12 contests.

Sosa – who will play at Oklahoma City University next spring – joined the Turks six games into the season and quickly contributed, driving in the game-tying run in the eighth inning of an eventual 7-6 win at Woodstock on June 12. Earlier in that game, though, he had injured his foot, and he played in pain through the next several contests before taking time off.

“I could tell something was a little off,” Harrisonburg manager Bob Wease said. “He wasn’t running like he was supposed to. But he’s a catalyst; he can set the table. It’s a great weapon to have, you know? Speed takes care of a lot of things.”

Sosa has already proven what he’s capable of in limited action. In nine games – all starts – he’s hitting .303 (10-of-33) in nine games – all of them starts – with nine RBIs, five runs scored and five walks against four strikeouts. He’s 5-for-7 in stolen-base attempts, and has committed one error in 15 chances defensively.

Sosa grew up in the baseball-crazed Dominican Republic, moving to Boston with his mother when he was 12 years old.

“That’s what they live for, you could basically say, in the Dominican: playing baseball,” he said. “Here, like, they love the game and they like to play it, but it’s not the same way as over there. Over there, people are more dedicated, you could say, because here they have more different things to do. They can play basketball, football, they go to school and they can do different stuff.”

Now 19, Sosa said he wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea of moving to the U.S. because he thought he would have to stop playing baseball, but said he quickly realized his new home would give him an even better shot at a professional career.

After a year at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Sosa transferred to Western Oklahoma, where he hit about .372. He said he learned about the Turks from the coaches at Oklahoma City University.

“I just knew that he could run,” Wease said, “and I knew that he could play center field and also play second base. I knew that he was a switch hitter and he puts the ball in play.”

If he can do that in the final two weeks of the season, the Turks might again edge their way to the top of the standings.