Mitch Maier found himself in an unusual position when he was given a starting berth in the Midwest League All-Star Game.
Being in the all-star game wasn't unusual; the former UT catcher, a first-round draft pick by Kansas City in first-year player draft, had earned his berth with his fine play for the Burlington, Wis., Bees. Maier hit .300 in 82 games for the Bees with 34 stolen bases to rank among the league leaders.
But Maier's position was very unusual. The 30th overall choice in the 2003 draft, Maier had moved to third base at the start of this season. But he was asked to move to second because of an injury to another player.
Maier didn't think twice about playing the position in a professional game for the first time in his life.
"I was just glad to be in the starting lineup," Maier said of the position change. "A ground ball is a ground ball. But I did have a lot to learn about positioning myself on different plays; I was the only guy working on his defense in batting practice."
The work paid off, though, as Maier handled the position flawlessly. What's more, Maier went 2-for-3 with an RBI, a run scored and a stolen base to earn MVP honors in leading the Western Division all-stars over the Eastern Division, 6-3.
Shortly before the big league all-star break, Maier was promoted to High-A Wilmington, Del. So far Maier has hit .240 in 14 games for the Blue Rocks of the Carolina League as he continues to climb the professional ladder.
"There have been times I've had to make adjustments, but for the most part I've felt comfortable both at the plate and in the field," Maier said. "I've never felt overmatched.
"I learned to play third base in the instructional league, and I just needed to play games. The repetition has helped me a ton, but a still have a lot to work on."
Maier is one of five former Rockets playing in pro baseball, with Bowling Green also having five alumni in the pros. Here's a look at the nine other pros from area colleges:
Joe Cotton: The former BG pitcher is 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA in 19 relief appearances for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Cotton has allowed just 13 hits and four walks while fanning 20 in 23 innings.
Sean Dobson: Taken in the 40th round of this year's draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, the ex-UT outfielder is batting .297 for New Jersey in the New York-Penn League. He also leads his team with 21 runs scored in 35 games.
Jeremy Griffiths: The former Toledo right-hander began the season as one of the top prospects in the New York Mets system before being traded to Houston. Griffiths is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in seven appearances for the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs in the Pacific Coast League. He didn't survive the fifth in giving up five runs in a start for the Astros against Texas July 3.
Jeff Hundley: The left-hander from BG is in the bullpen for Bowie, Md., in the Double-A Eastern League. Hundley is 1-2 with seven saves and a 2.60 ERA as he and the BaySox compete with the Tigers' Erie club for a spot in the playoffs.
Kelly Hunt: The former Central Catholic and BG first baseman is playing for Detroit's Low-A West Michigan team in the Midwest League, where he is batting .256 with 12 homers and 63 RBIs,
Tony Miller: An outfielder for the Double-A Tulsa, Okla., Drillers of the Texas League, this former UT star is hitting .269 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs. Miller also ranks among the team leaders with 19 stolen bases and 54 runs scored.
Drew Niles: This former BG infielder has been a valuable utility player for the Triple-A Albuquerque, N.M., Isotopes in the PCL. Niles has played second, short and third for the Isotopes while batting .249 with four homers in 80 games.
Denny Stark: The right-hander from Edgerton and UT was promoted to Colorado after earning a spot on the PCL all-star team while pitching for Triple-A Colorado Springs. But he was 0-5 with an 11.42 ERA in six starts before going on the 60-day DL July 20 with a groin injury.
Andy Tracy: The former BG star ranks among the top hitters in the PCL while playing first base for Colorado Springs. Tracy has hit .331 with 24 home runs and 91 RBIs, a mark this is tied for first in the league.
HENNESSEY HEATING UP: Former Whitmer pitcher Brad Hennessey's roller-coaster ride of a professional career has gone straight up in recent weeks.
The former first-round draft pick of the Giants, who missed a full season of action because of noncancerous tumors in his back, recently was promoted to Triple-A Fresno, Calif.
And Hennessey has dominated PCL hitters while with the Grizzlies. He allowed just six hits and three earned runs in eight innings against Oklahoma on Tuesday, improving to 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts at that level.
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