Goldeyes

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Josh Mazzola is white hot. Chris Roberson is probably hotter.

Meanwhile, the man who spends a part of every day with the two most devastating hitters in the American Association – right now -- wants everyone to know it has nothing to do with him.

“This isn’t about anything I’ve done,” said Goldeyes hitting coach Tom Vaeth. “This has everything to do with what they’ve done. All I’ve ever say to the players is this, ‘I’ll be there if you need me.’ If you want to work all night after a game, I’ll be there. If you want to get up first thing in the morning and go to the cage, I’ll be there.

“These guys are hitting the way they are because they’ve done the work. Listen, all I do is make suggestions. This is their paycheck. This is their future. They have to decide what they want to do. I don’t demand that they do anything. I give them suggestions and if they want to take them, it’s their business.

“But I can tell you this, they’ve worked very hard to reach the point they’re both at right now. It’s all them. They did the work.”

Monday night in downtown Winnipeg, the Goldeyes put 20 runs on the board for the first time in the history of Shaw Park. Vaeth had a good laugh because he wasn’t there. He missed the game in order to finish up some citizenship paperwork with his two Canadian-born sons in the United States.

“I took a lot of heat because I wasn’t there,” he said with a laugh. “But it’s like any parent. I know if I’m not there they can take what they’ve learned and apply it while I’m gone.”

There is no doubt Roberson and Mazzola have been applying some of Vaeth’s suggestions. Just look at the numbers.

Early in the season, Mazzola struggled to reach .200. Monday night, Mazzola hit his team leading 15th home run, a two-run bomb in the seventh, went three-for-four with a walk, scored four runs and drove in four as he led the run-hungry Goldeyes to a 20-16 win over the Sioux Falls Fightin’ Pheasants.

Mazzola, despite a wonky start, is now hitting .311 with 15 homers, 21 doubles (No. 1 on the team) and a team-leading 58 runs batted in. He’s now second in the league in home runs and ninth in RBI.

“You have to give Mazzola a lot of credit,” said Vaeth. “A lot of people on the team and around the team were down on him early in the season because he was struggling. He realized at the time that he wouldn’t enjoy the success he’s having now if he didn’t change his stance and his approach at the plate.

“Remember that first series here in Winnipeg against Amarillo? We played that 11 a.m. game on a Thursday and he was really scuffling at the plate. He and I went down to the batting cage after that game and worked for hours on his swing. He took some of the suggestions I made and he changed his feet and his load.

“Then there was series last month against Fargo when we were blowing those late leads. After the last game, a few of us just sat in the clubhouse and talked baseball. There was Mazzola and de Caster and Roberson and a couple of pitchers, I think. It was one of those great conversations you have about baseball and we went well into the night, just sitting in the clubhouse talking about hitting. There was something that was said that night that Josh incorporated into his game and he’s just started hitting so well since then.”

Another guy who was part of that conversation was Roberson and he has been absolutely brilliant in the last month.

Roberson is now the No. 2 hitter in the American Association with a .354 batting average. He has a league-leading 110 hits with 20 doubles (tied for 11th in the league), 10 homers and 54 runs batted in (13th ion the AA). On top of that, he has 28 steals (second in the AA) and 63 runs scored (fourth in the league). He is clearly one of the best hitters in independent baseball.

“Roby understands more of what I’m trying to do,” said Vaeth. “Because he’s been in the Majors, there are things that I talk about that he’s heard before. It’s a joy to spend time with him. He’s a guy who adjusted early in the year and has been on a tear all season.

“We had to work on a few things early in the year because he’d developed a couple of bad habits in Mexico. The pitching in Mexico is a lot different than it is here. There is a lot more consistency on breaking balls. You have to be aggressive and get after it early in the count. Pitchers in Mexico don’t want to spend any more time on the mound than they have to.

“Here guys are sinking it and cutting it and not as consistently. You can approach your at bats differently. You can have more patience here.”

As a result, Roberson has had some of the best at bats on the ball club over the past month and during the first six days of August, he has been lights out.

He started the month hitting .333 and then went 16-for-29 (.552) to raise his batting average by 21 points. He’s also added eight runs and five RBI. Monday night, as the Goldeyes won 20-16 over Sioux Falls, he went two-for-six with two runs scored and two driven in.

“We made a commitment together early in the season to make this a big year for Roby,” Vaeth said. “Last week Roby came to me and said, ‘Now you’re going to see something special in this month of August,’ and he’s already delivered.

“You gotta hand to both of those guys,” Vaeth added. “They have worked their butts off.”