Sometimes simpler is better, even when dealing with something as difficult as hitting a baseball.
That’s Alex Baratta’s approach, and it has been working.
Baratta, the only returning player from last year’s Riverhead Tomcats team, has a .400 batting average, ranking him second to Nick Thornquist of the Sag Harbor Whalers (.536) in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. As Baratta sees it, the batter’s box is not a place for overthinking.
“If you think about it, that’s when you really get in trouble,” he said. “You just have to keep it really simple.”
Tomcats coach John Galanoudis said Baratta is seeing the results of a simplified swing. “We’ve been talking about just staying middle, not really trying to do too much and letting his natural power and his natural ability take over, and he’s really made a great adjustment,” Galanoudis said. “He’s coming down to do extra hitting at the field before games. He’s done a great job of putting the work in, and it’s awesome to watch it be able to pay off for him.”
Baratta has been playing third and second base for the Tomcats. He was the designated hitter, batting fifth in the order, in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Whalers at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor. He went 1-for-3, with a chopped single up the middle and a sacrifice fly.
Baratta, a red-shirt sophomore at SUNY/Binghamton, played primarily second base for the Bearcats, with a little third and a little first. He played in 22 games, starting 14 — all at second — and made only three errors in 66 chances. “He plays a great third base, a great second base,” said Galanoudis.
But it has been Baratta’s bat this summer that has been making noise.
“I think what impresses me the most is just his ability to really slow the game down when the game speeds up, if that makes sense,” Galanoudis said. “He’s had a couple of clutch hits late in games to either tie the game in the ninth or put us ahead, and I think his maturity as a hitter has been the coolest thing to watch.”
The Gladstone, N.J., product, who also has a home run and 13 RBIs, said: “I just have a very simple mental approach. I just try to go out there and execute it every time. I got three or four at-bats a game, and I know if I don’t do well in one, I’ve got two or three others.”
Last year Baratta finished with a .366 batting average, no home runs and 14 RBIs for the Tomcats in 20 games.
The wood bats the league uses are a help, said Baratta. He believes they help sharpen his focus.
“You really have to barrel it up because if not, you’re going to break a few bats here and there,” he said. “No cheap hits, but I definitely think hitting with wood really helps you out.”
“I’ve had a pretty good summer so far,” Baratta said. “I’m seeing the ball really well. I’m putting good swings on them. Some balls are falling here and there, but yeah, it’s been a pretty good summer so far.”
It’s as simple as that.
Photo caption: Alex Baratta, Riverhead’s only returning player, ranks second in the league with a .400 batting average. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)