BRISTOL - Jimmy Titus had started Tuesday morningâ€™s game against Brockton about as poorly as possible. In three at-bats, he had three strikeouts. The only at-bat anyone in the stands remembered from the game, however, was his game-winning hit in the eighth.
For Titus, it was another bit of on-the-job training.
The two-time Gatorade Connecticut player of the year in high school isnâ€™t resting on his laurels or resting this summer while waiting to go to emerging regional baseball power Bryant in the fall. Playing for the Bristol Blues, he is using his time at Muzzy Field to soak up any extra baseball knowledge he can.
This weekâ€™s lesson was patience. He knew how to put the past behind him, but doing it in an important situation at a higher level proved he could put the correct mindset into practice.
â€śYeah, striking out three times is bad,â€ť Titus said. â€śIt is tough to get over that, but as soon as I get up in the box Iâ€™m not thinking about any of my prior at-bats. I have a job to do. I was thinking about adjustments I had to make, getting my hands up and getting a better at-bat. Even during the (game-winning) at-bat, I got down 1-2 and knew I wasnâ€™t getting my best swings. Then (on 2-2) I got the barrel through better.
â€śBaseball is a humbling game and if you go up there moping youâ€™re not going to get a double or anything like that.â€ť
Titus has done anything but mope while in Bristol. Instead, he has used the opportunity to pick the brains of older players and compete against the young men he will see in college who play a much different game than the high school sport he dominated.
â€śSummer is going well. Iâ€™m really enjoying playing with these guys,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s definitely a tough adjustment. Itâ€™s nothing like high school because these guys can really mix it up on the mound. Itâ€™s the speed of the game thatâ€™s probably been the biggest adjustment. Iâ€™m hitting pretty well right now, getting good at-bats, which is promising. Itâ€™s not the best Iâ€™ve ever performed, but itâ€™s a great learning experience.â€ť
Playing at a faster level, not to mention a higher one, took some time to get accustomed to, especially while he was trying to make some quick decisions against pitchers already used to the collegiate level. Titus has the skill to compete with older players, but they have picked up some tricks of the trade Titus is still mastering.
â€śItâ€™s such a good learning experience for when I get up to Bryant because Iâ€™ll have 60 games of experience under my belt against college pitching when I get there,â€ť Titus said. â€śI had faced some premium arms in showcases but itâ€™s definitely different in college because these guys are mature and know how to pitch, how to mix up pitches, off-speed, in and out. Thereâ€™s a lot of thought that goes into it. Iâ€™ve gained a lot of respect for college pitchers. Not that I didnâ€™t have it before, but itâ€™s definitely a very tough mind game going up against those pitchers. I just have to get better. I have to do what I can to get up there and get some hits and hit the ball hard.â€ť
Titus was one of several Blues players who started hitting the ball the other way in the win over Brockton, which was indicative of Bristolâ€™s improved approach in recent days.
â€śItâ€™s a mixture of where the pitchers are throwing the ball and just trying to get through the ball,â€ť Titus said. â€śItâ€™s just putting the team before you, having good team at-bats, doing your job so the team can win.â€ť
The team atmosphere is also clear from the Bluesâ€™ treatment of Titus. As one of the teamâ€™s youngest players, Titus has taken his share of ribbing, but has also been getting great advice.
â€śIâ€™ve always played on teams where Iâ€™m a younger guy, but being two or three years younger than these guys is a little different,â€ť he said. â€śI get made fun of sometimes about how I should be at naptime, but itâ€™s been a lot of fun. These guys have really taken me under their wings. Theyâ€™re playing well and helping me out with whatever they can.â€ť
Help from his elders is great, but Titus will learn the most by being thrown to the fire. The more he plays, the more he will learn.
Matt Straub can be reached at (860) 801-5203 or email@example.com On Twitter: @mattattheherald