MOOSIC – Trey Amburgey was going through a mini-slump heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders outfielder was 1-for-8 with three strikeouts and a walk leading in to the tilt, and the struggles were mainly due to some poor pitch selection on Amburgey’s part. But after talking to one of his friend’s who pitched with Pawtucket starter Matthew Kent in college at Texas A&M, Amburgey thought his fortunes might change later that night.
The 24-year-old was 4-for-5 with a two-out, three-run home run in the sixth inning en route to a 8-6 RailRiders win. Amburgey’s first three hits of the day came off of Kent while the fourth, the three-run homer, was against Red Sox reliever Bobby Poyner.
Amburgey is batting .428 in his last seven games after Wendesday’s four-hit night.
“After last night, I’m not as really as far off as I think I am,” Amburgey said after the win. “So, I came in here and kept swinging. Talked to my friend from A&M. ‘Starting pitcher went to A&M. Ruin his day.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’ Good thing that happened.
“I was telling some of the guys that the pitcher I hit the home run off of was the player of the year in my county in high school. I’ve grown up knowing the kid. We played Little League together. It was nice.”
Pitch selection has been a point of emphasis between Amburgey and RailRiders hitting coach Phil Plantier the past couple days.
Plantier reassured the outfielder that he wasn’t as far off as he thought and after a steady day of cage work on Wednesday, Amburgey brought his refined pitch selection into the night’s game against the Red Sox.
When Amburgey got a friendly bounce off of the second-base bag in the third inning, RailRiders manager Jay Bell knew his player was in for a big night.
“That second hit was a pretty fortunate hit, hitting off the bag and bouncing to center field,” Bell said of the third-inning single. “He went through a spell where he really struggled and sometimes whenever you’re starting to get going again, things like that tend to happen because you put the bat on the ball and it’s not a bunch swing-and-misses.
“Trey looked great tonight. First four at-bats were fantastic and the last one was actually pretty competitive – swung at a pitch up in the zone and a fly out. Still, pretty great to see him start swinging it.”
There is one player Bell has spent his entire time that he’s been in the New York Yankees organization with: Amburgey.
Seeing him grow from where he was three seasons ago with High-A Tampa to where he is now in his first season with the RailRiders has been impressive. Not just how he’s matured physically, but also the way he has grown mentally.
“I think one of the things he’s consistently gotten better at over the last three years – part of it is he’s grown up a lot emotionally,” Bell said. “He handles the successes and failures differently than he did two years ago. It is very encouraging to see him do as well as he is. But it’s not just his physical attributes, but as well as mentally.”
There might not be a bigger example than last year in the Eastern League All-Star Game.
Amburgey stepped up to the plate with the Eastern Division All-Stars trailing the Western Division 4-3 with two outs and a runner on first base.
The then-Trenton Thunder outfielder put aside the fact that he was already 0-for-2 on the night when he stepped up to the plate to face Harrisburg right-hander Derek Self and came through for his team with an RBI double to tie the game.
The clutch hit carried over into the second half of the regular season, when he batted .276 compared to just .247 in the first half.
“It was just one of those moments in the year last year that he got it done when it needed to get done,” Bell said “From that point on, there was just kind of a change in his mentality – the way he thought about himself, his approach to the game. That kind of stuff. I think it stayed with him through the offseason and into spring training. Now you look at him and there are some really good things that are happening. I am thrilled that he is having the opportunity to get the number of the at-bats he is here.”
Receiving his first big-league camp invite this spring and playing at the Triple-A level for the first time, Amburgey has had the opportunity to learn from a handful of veterans this season. It’s something he doesn’t take lightly.
Amburgey has taken full advantage of all opportunities to ask RailRiders veterans Billy Burns, Brad Miller and Logan Morrison questions. Burns is the first person he goes to whenever something pops up in the outfield.
Amburgey also sees his time with the RailRiders veterans as one way that he’s going to take his game to the next level.
“A lot of learning. Obviously being around guys like Brad and LoMo and all of them, getting to learn what they do each and every day,” Amburgey said. “It was nice being around the guys in spring training too. I’ve been around them the past three or four years going over and filling in, but never actually getting the (big-league) camp invite. Being able to be there and pick their brains was a lot of fun. Being able to play each day and learn – it’s been a blessing.
“Being able to pick veteran’s brains is probably going to be one of my biggest keys to progressing my game and getting better.”