by Ryan Christoffersen / A’s Farm Beloit Correspondent
Last year, the A’s made slugging outfielder Kyle Nowlin their 21st-round draft pick out of Eastern Kentucky University. Nowlin grew up in the small town of Harrison, Ohio, about twenty miles northwest of Cincinnati. And after graduating from William Henry Harrison High, he headed off to college at EKU, which was one of two Division 1 schools that offered him a chance to play baseball. It turned out to be a great situation for Nowlin, since he got to see plenty of playing time starting as a freshman. And in his senior season, he led his college team with 21 home runs, a total which ranked in the top ten nationally.
After getting into 44 games for the Arizona League A’s last year, the organization sent Nowlin to the Beloit Snappers this season, where they also asked him to begin playing a new position – first base. Ever since the All-Star break, Nowlin’s been on a tear, putting up a .300/.402/.482 slash line in the second half, and he currently leads the Snappers with 63 RBIs and 59 walks, while his 24 doubles tie him for the team lead. As the minor league season was entering its final weeks, we took the opportunity to talk with Nowlin about his full season of pro ball…
AF: You’ve been red hot since the All-Star break and had a tremendous month of July in which you had a .610 slugging percentage and an OPS over 1.000. To what do you attribute your success in the second half?
KN: So, I went home during the All-Star break – took three days off from baseball. I came back here and started seeing the ball better. The hits started falling, which was not the case for me at all the first half of the season. I honestly can’t pick out one certain thing, but I’m sure the rest when I went home helped. I was able to clear my brain and start over. I kind of started a new season over after the All-Star break.
AF: It’s interesting that different things work for different ballplayers. Sometimes it’s a change mechanically or maybe it has something to do with the mental side of it.
KN: Yeah, I think I just needed to get away from it a little bit. I was starting to get really frustrated with everything.
AF: What are some of the statistics, if any, that you look at?
KN: I honestly don’t look at them too much, because once I start looking at them, I start thinking about them. Especially if you’re doing well in a certain category, you don’t want to look at it. It seems like every time I do, the next few games I do nothing to contribute to those stats. I just start thinking about them too much. So, I tend to stay away from looking at my stats.
AF: Watching you this season, I have noticed that you do a great job of hitting the ball to all fields, especially with power. Is that a conscious approach that you take at the plate?
KN: When I was in high school, my coach told me that the right-center field gap is where I had the most power. So, I never have been a stereotypical pull hitter. I mean, a lot of the ground balls I hit are pulled. When I hit a line drive or fly ball, it is usually gap to gap. I tell myself to hit a hard line drive from left center to right center. It just so happens I wear out the right-center field gap kind of a lot.
AF: Are there any particular adjustments you’ve made this season that have helped you succeed?
KN: Not really anything at the plate. I used to be an outfielder. But then in instructs last year, they moved me to first base. So, I mean, that was a huge difference. In the infield, you have to be more focused than in the outfield.
AF: That actually brings me to my next question. I’ve noticed a significant improvement from you defensively at first base as the season has progressed. What specific work has gone into that?
KN: I think just reps, honestly. I had never played infield in my life growing up. So, that was a drastic change for me. At instructs last year, I looked like a baby deer trying to walk for the first time. I didn’t know how to do much of anything at first base. But just getting work there every day, seeing ground balls and seeing throws across the diamond really just helped me to get a feel for the position.
AF: Some people don’t realize how much goes into playing first base.
KN: Yeah, like getting used to being around the bag with your footwork. The bag is kind of awkward at first. You don’t really know how to get there and you’re dancing around it. But once you get used to it, the footwork becomes more natural.
AF: Is there anything that you’re working on, or that the coaches, particularly hitting coach Juan Dilone, are working on with you right now?
KN: In the second half, Dilo hasn’t worked much with me, just because I’ve been swinging so well. He wants to let me do my own thing and not mess with anything. So, yeah, I guess I’m not really working on anything in particular at the plate.
AF: So, on the personal side, where have you been living this year? Are you staying with a host family or are you sharing a place with some of your teammates?
KN: I’m staying with a host family. It’s me, JaVon Shelby – Nate Mondou used to live with us before he got promoted – now Josh Vidales lives with us ever since he got sent here. We are living with a woman named Janna. She’s awesome. There at the house is a whole basement we have to ourselves. It’s a pretty nice little setup.
AF: What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned this year?
KN: A full season is a grind. You cannot take anything for granted. We have 140 games with just 12 off days, which include the three off-days during the All-Star break. So, if you have a bad day one day, you’ve just got to let it go. You’re going to probably get four to five at-bats the next day. You just can’t let something bother you so much that it sends you into a downward spiral.
AF: With just a few weeks left in the season, what’s your main focus or goal you’re trying to accomplish?
KN: I’m just trying to finish strong and play like I have been, aim for at least one to two hits a day, string together some good games. The body is wearing down a little bit from the grind of the season. We are currently on a 19-game stretch without an off-day. That’s a tough stretch, especially being in August. But I really want to enjoy the last few weeks we have here. You can’t play baseball forever, so you’ve got to enjoy it while you can!
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