Looking like a legend
NILES – Austin Fisher is three inches shorter than legendary shortstop Cal Ripken Jr.
Fisher, the Cleveland Indians 13th-round pick from this year’s MLB Draft out of Kansas State University, was only 8 years old when the Baltimore Orioles’ Iron Man played his last major league game.
Fisher, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound shortstop with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, has great range for a player at this short-season Class A level.
“Defensively, I try to stay within myself,” Fisher said following a recent loss to Batavia. “One person I really look up to was Cal Ripken. I’ve looked at his old highlight tapes. He’s obviously a big shortstop. He was. He played the angles, got rid of the ball quick. That’s something I try to stick with. I know I don’t have one of the best arms, but I can get it out of the glove quick and I get it over to first. I can dive, get up quick and make the play. It’s the kind of thing I’m trying to do right now.”
Fisher utilizes his length to make the space between second base and shortstop a virtually impenetrable wall for any would-be ground ball.
Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak is quite impressed with Fisher’s exploits on Eastwood Field and away from Niles.
“I like his range,” Kubiak said. “He’s going left and right pretty well. I think the thing I’m seeing out of him is he reads the ball off the bat pretty well. It’s a very difficult thing to do. Not many big league guys, including infielders, can do that properly. I think he has that knack for doing that.”
Fisher might have been trying to replicate Ripken’s way around the infield a bit too much. The former Kansas State standout was a bit of perfectionist in the infield, which didn’t always pan out for him.
“I think I’m like calming down. Ever since I started college, I tried to rush things a little bit, trying to make a great play every single time,” he said. “Now, I’ve kind of found myself a little bit. This last year, I’ve got a little comfortable, at least taking it over Kubiak said Fisher has been listening to his instruction and was able to get over that case of the jitters.
“He’s been really good,” Kubiak said. “The first couple of games he’s settled in a little bit. He hadn’t been playing like most of those guys. He hadn’t been playing for about a month. So, it took a little while to get their feet under them, but we worked a little bit out there with pre-game stuff, taking about stuff.”
He started off slow, with an average hovering around .200, but his average rose to .226 after Sunday’s win against Lowell at Fenway Park in Boston.
“Not necessarily my approach or anything, but kind of my set up, just trying new things,” Fisher said. “I’m testing it out right now. It’s coming around. I’ll see some games I’ll hit the ball hard. Other games I look like I’m lost. It’s kind of in the middle and trying to find it.”
Looks like it’s working so far.
That adjustment might help Fisher move up the minor league ladder and into the majors.
From there, who knows? He might have his chance to emulate his hero – Ripken. The Iron Man went 2,632 straight games spanning 17 years.
“That’s one thing I look up to immensely, being that consistent, playing every single day,” Fisher said. “That’s one of the things you strive for, consistency. That’s one thing I’m trying to find. I think I’ve found it defensively. I’m still working on the offensive side. It’s still an adjustment.”