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IronPigs first baseman Darick Hall’s success built on consistent work, adjustments

Allentown Morning Call logo Allentown Morning Call 5/8/2021 Tom Housenick, The Morning Call
a man wearing a hat throwing a baseball on a field: Darick Hall, right with college and current IronPigs teammate Austin Listi, said he's at his best when he's playing every day and getting consistent at-bats. © Rick Kintzel/The Morning Call Darick Hall, right with college and current IronPigs teammate Austin Listi, said he's at his best when he's playing every day and getting consistent at-bats.

Darick Hall was locked in and making consistently good contact this winter while playing for Los Mochis in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.

Then came a positive test.

“I hadn’t seen pitching in awhile,” Hall said, “but as I played there, I was playing really well. Then I was taken off the roster for five days.”

It might as well have been five months for Hall, a 2016 14th-round pick.

“Those days not playing on the field,” he said, “I fell out of my groove. The last couple of weeks I wasn’t hitting the ball like I was. I have to play a lot and often to feel my groove.”

a baseball player holding a bat: First baseman Darick Hall is off to a slow start in his first Triple-A season at Lehigh Valley. © Nathan Ray / First baseman Darick Hall is off to a slow start in his first Triple-A season at Lehigh Valley.

The kicker was that three days after the positive test, the symptomless Hall tested negative.

The 21-game stint in Mexico, however, served a purpose for Hall, who spent most of 2018 and all of 2019 with Double-A Reading.

The first baseman hit the ground running during spring training. He worked on a few details with his swing — something he struggled with in 2020 — and felt prepared when camp broke and he came to the alternate site at Coca-Cola Park.

“I realized in big league camp in 2020 what I had to do to iron things out in my swing,” Hall said, “With fastballs up in the zone, I couldn’t get on top of them. The best I could do was clipping or fouling them off.

“This year I’ve been able to hit them. When you do that, the pitchers have to bring them down to a better zone to hit them.”

Hall left this spring feeling prepared, and it showed during the alternate site. He fared well in the 18 taxi squad games against the Yankees — though that brings with it a false sense of security for hitters on both squads.

Seeing the same pitchers day after day leads to an eventual advantage for hitters.

“The alternate site is like fishing in the same pond,” the Dallas Baptist product said. “It takes a couple of weeks to catch one, but after that you don’t have to think about it.

“That’s what happened to me. I got conditioned to the Yankees, which is power stuff. Fastballs at the top of the zone. Fastballs with two strikes and maybe not early. Then coming into this series, it was the exact opposite. It couldn’t have been more polar opposite.”

It predictably led to a slow start for Hall, who picked up his first hit and the IronPigs first home run of 2021 with a second-inning solo shot in Thursday’s win over Rochester. He also moved over the eventual winning run with a 10th-inning groundout.

“It’s been good to see these guys having good at-bats, playing the right way,” IronPigs manager Gary Jones said. “D-Hall stayed within himself to get the ball over to second base to move the runner.”

The 6-foot-4, 232-pounder was batting .105 entering Saturday night’s game with no walks. The adjustments are ongoing as he’s seeing one slider after another. Hall thinks the six-game series this season will work to the hitters’ advantage as the series wears on.

The Arizona native expects to regain his groove as the regular season wears on and he gets steady at-bats. He is confident because he has learned over the years how to feel things in his swing and adjust.

But Hall is jealous of great hitters who are able to maintain the swing path.

“I’m convinced of guys like [Tony] Gwynn and [Barry] Bonds had the beauty of swinging the same way since they were 9 years old,” Hall said, “maybe earlier. Me, I’ve made countless adjustments in my career. I’ve only been swinging relatively the same for three years.

“I couldn’t imagine going 12, 13 years without having to change too much, just micro adjustments.”

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Morning Call reporter Tom Housenick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or at thousenick@mcall.com.

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