His first season of professional baseball didn’t start so hot, but Garin Cecchini was rolling on July 23rd of last year when he stepped into the batter’s box at LeLacheur Park in the bottom of the first inning.
In the nine games prior to that night the Lowell Spinners’ third baseman had picked up 15 hits and raised his average .080 points to .298.
With a man on first and one out, Cecchini had reason to feel confident as he dug in, but a wayward fastball from Staten Island Yankees pitcher Manny Rodriguez shattered all of that in the blink of an eye.
The pitch tailed in and hit him square on his left wrist, fracturing the bone and ending his season on the spot.
“It kind of sucked because you want to help your team win,” said Cecchini, a fourth round selection by the Red Sox in the 2010 draft. “You can’t really do anything with a cast on your arm. All you can really do is cheer them on and try to keep a positive attitude. It’s just tough when you’re not on the field.”
He could have packed it in and went home, but Cecchini stayed with his team, and remained positive in the face of his injury.
He cheered on his Spinners teammates from the top step of the dugout, coached first base with cast-and-all, and kept the mood light within the clubhouse. He even earned a New York-Penn League All-Star nod despite not being able to play in the game.
“To come to the field last year every day with a positive attitude, thinking about others before yourself, that was the best thing that I could have done to the help the team,” said Cecchini. “It’s the least that I could have done.”
The only thing that he could do to maintain his sanity off the field was to practice patience in working himself back and it paid off for the 21-year-old, who has played the entire 2012 season with the Low Class-A Greenville Drive.
“A bone doesn’t heal in one day, a knee doesn’t heal in two weeks, it’s just patience,” said Cecchini. “Sometimes I don’t have a lot of patience for that, but you’ve got to remind yourself every day that the process is that the body is going to heal itself. Little by little I got one percent better every day.”
Coming into the 2012 season Baseball America listed Cecchini as the seventh best prospect in the Red Sox farm system and the SoxProspects.com scouting report states that he has the “Ceiling of an All-Star caliber third baseman.”
His numbers this season back up these assessments. In 83 games with Greenville, Cecchini has collected 100 hits for a .306 batting average with a .386 on-base percentage, 46 RBIs and 58 runs.
A middle infielder in high school, Cecchini moved to third base when he joined the Spinners a year ago and made ten errors in 26 games while he adjusted to a new position.
Now, with only a year under his belt at the hot corner, Cecchini has ten errors in 69 games and is becoming more-and-more comfortable with the position each day.
He is also 32-for-35 in stolen base attempts, an aspect of his game that Cecchini takes very seriously.
“I feel like that’s one of the things I bring to the table and it’s just another attribute that I can try to take over a game with,” said Cecchini. “It’s not about just being fast, it’s about reading pitchers, being a player and being a student of game.
“Pitchers are creatures of habit and they’re going to do the same thing over and over. I take pride in my base running, not only my hitting and my defense. It’s one of the things that I can bring to the table that I don’t think many third basemen can.”
The more notable aspect of this part of his game is his efficiency in getting the extra base when it presents itself. This is a player who, in his junior year in high school, stole 53 bases and was only caught twice and in 115 professional games has a success rate of 90 percent.
The most important thing for Cecchini now is that he is healthy and in the lineup every day generating these opportunities for himself and his team.
“Everything is 100 percent,” said Cecchini, who missed much of his senior season at Barbe High School (Lake Charles, LA) with a torn ACL. “[The wrist] feels great and the body feels great even in July. Hopefully we can go for two more months or even longer.”
If the Drive are to extend their season Cecchini will have to be one of the main reasons for it, so long as he sticks around. The potential for a call-up to Salem is more than possible and his name has recently been floating around the trade rumor mill.
For now he does his best to stay grounded even after being selected to the South Atlantic League’s All-Star Game back in June, his second such in honor in as many seasons.
“You don’t really try to think about that kind of stuff, you just go out every day and try to bring 100% of yourself every day,” said Cecchini of maintaining his momentum and living up to the hype following two straight All-Star selections in only two seasons of play. “If you do that, then everything is going to take care of itself, no matter if you go 0-for-20 for a two week span. That’s baseball. The main thing is learning from it and bringing yourself every day.”
Added Cecchini, “To stay strong mentally and strong fundamentally, those were my only goals [coming into the season]. To stay the same and not ride any emotional roller-coaster. You got to remember that it is a process, that’s why we’re in Low-A, because we’re learning.”
Now, a year after having his 2011 season cut short, Cecchini remains an astute student of the game and what he is learning at this level is shining through.
You can contact Craig Forde via email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @BeyondFenway
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