Courtney Hawkins enjoyed a pretty charmed introduction to pro baseball after the White Sox selected him with the 13th pick in the 2012 draft.
He started with 38 encouraging games at rookie-ball Bristol, after which the Sox promoted him to Kannapolis for the few weeks of the regular season. He hit so well over 16 games with the Intimidators (.308/.352/.631) that they advanced him to Winston-Salem in order to get him some at-bats in the Carolina League playoffs. His first 18 plate appearances with the Dash went well for an 18-year-old, as he batted .294 with two doubles and a homer, while striking out just twice.
It's a slightly different story this year, as Hawkins, 19, is taking all-or-nothing to crazy lengths. He's hit five homers over 40 at-bats (that's good), but he's struck out 25 times (that's bad).
I saw the dark side of his first three weeks last Thursday in Frederick, Md., as he followed up a two-homer game with a golden sombrero. Here's the inventory of the 16 pitches I recorded:
- 9 swing-throughs
- 3 taken for balls
- 1 taken strike
- 1 check-swing foul
- 1 foul tip
- 1 foul back
In lieu of a video, here's a GIF.
Frustration set in at the end, as he flung his bat straight down to the ground in the dugout after his last at-bat. But talking to Hawkins before the game, it sounded like he was doing his best to keep the big picture in mind.
On the slow start
"It's a long season. It's gonna be a long season. I'm not putting too much on it right now. It's still early. Still 130-something more games to go, so I'm not too worried about my downfalls or my good accomplishments."
On being the third-youngest player in the Carolina League
"I don't really worry about the young thing. That never really bothers me. I go out and play ball every day, and they look at me, unless they know me, they don't know how old I am."
On playing the outfield
"I haven't heard anything (about moving to a corner), but It doesn't bother me where I play. For now, I haven't played anything other than center. In Winston last year, I played a little bit of left, but other than that, I'll play anywhere. It doesn't bother me."
On approach vs. results
"People look at baseball, they look at numbers a lot. They look at what they saw that at-bat, they look at the final outcome. They don't look at what you did right during that at-bat -- even if it did lead to something that wasn't good."
"There's a lot to it. That's one thing I do like about (the White Sox organization), that they do look at stuff like that. They do look for stuff you've worked on. They'll tell you to change something, and as long as you did that, you're good with them. Just as long as you went out and did what you were supposed to do, or told you to do, or at least they saw you working or trying to do."
On aggressive assignments
"I had no clue (that the Sox pushed their prospects), but I'm glad that they did do that. I like competition. I like the pressure. That doesn't really bother me."
"Jared Mitchell told me one thing (Hawkins worked out with him over the whole offseason) -- it's a long season. Take stuff day by day, take stuff step by step and let it come naturally. You can't worry about one bad game, or a couple bad weeks. It's gonna happen. You still got another six months, you know?
"People would ask me before, I'd say, 'Yeah, [I'd worry].' But now, I'm not too worried about it. I worry about it, but not to the point where I'm going to start panicking. Keep playing the game I play, keep going out and doing what I do.
"He goes out and works hard. He works his butt off. He pushed me in the offseason working. He grinds. He's an athlete."
"(He's competitive about) everything, it doesn't matter what. He's going to work the best he can to be No. 1 at it. During this offseason, I really took the approach to that. I'd want to take a break or something, he'd be like, 'You can't, man. You gotta keep pushing. You gotta keep doing it.'
"That helped me a lot in the offseaosn, just him talking to me every day, every single day. It's the process behind everything, you know? He helped me understand that it's a long season, baseball's a hard sport. You're gonna have your ups, you're gonna have your downs, you're gonna have your successes, you're gonna have your downfalls. You just gotta take it in stride."
And here's Hawkins' fifth homer of the year from Wednesday: