A familiar voice filled the batting cages at Salt River Fields when Jamie Westbrook stepped up to the plate.
Jamie graduated from Basha High this year and was selected in the fifth round of the MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now they’re working him into the system starting with the D-backs’ rookie league. But his voice isn’t the one we all know. That would be the voice of Westbrook’s hitting coach, Mark Grace.
“It’s weird cause that voice you know, you associate it with your childhood during the D-backs game when you heard Mark Grace’s voice,” Westbrook said.
A lot like Westbrook, Grace is beginning baseball all over again. Of course, Westbrook just turned 18 and he’s not a big leaguer or a career .300 hitter like his coach… yet. Up until the draft, he was just another young guy on the D-backs scout team whose big league dream came true.
“The same week I was on the other field with the high school scout team and then the next week I’m walking to my very own locker as a pro.”
Westbrook grew up in Chandler. His senior year, the second baseman hit .434 with half a dozen homeruns. Those are great numbers, but nothing beat hearing his number called in the fifth round by his hometown team.
“I wasn’t expecting anything and then they called my name and that’s about it. That’s all I remember. I heard my name and I ran into the street. Tears, crying, hugging my dad, my family, everybody. It was a crazy day, for sure!”
“Swing up,” Grace said to him during batting practice. “The reason it hurts is because you’re swinging tentative. Swing it. Swing it hard. Swing it with aggression. Swing it with bad intentions,” was Grace’s advice. And it’s working. Westbrook went from striking out on the ball machine to hitting 95 MPH pitches.
Now we have to wait and see what his future holds within the Diamondbacks organization.
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