Reading's Anthony Hewitt making major strides
Once thought to be the Phillies' third baseman of the future, Anthony Hewitt now plays rightfield for Double A Reading.
READING - When you're a first-round pick in the NBA draft, you make the big club and you're expected to be an impact player. Be picked No. 4 in the NFL draft, and the comparisons to Hall of Famers are soon to follow.
But when you're a first-round pick in the Major League Baseball draft, first you have to pay your dues and then you have to make good on the club's expectations.
It's not easy. It's like the sea turtle hatchling trying to make it to the water hoping to avoid being gobbled up by a bird, raccoon or some other predator. Make it to the water and you'll be fine. But getting there is a whole different matter.
Anthony Hewitt was drafted as a shortstop, but the Phillies were hoping he could be their third baseman of the future. When his fielding percentage wasn't much higher than his OPS, he was dispatched to rightfield, which he now patrols for the Reading Fightin Phils.
"Baseball's a special sport," said the 24-year-old Hewitt, who turned down a scholarship to Vanderbilt University after the Phillies made him the 24th pick in the first round of the 2008 MLB draft. "It's not easy. It's a great game because not everybody can do it; and those who can do it are special in a sense that they figure something out that a lot of people couldn't have.
"It's like a game of chess. You've got to think a couple of moves ahead but, at the same time, you've got to take one move at a time."
So far, what has gobbled up the righthand-hitting Hewitt in his quest to reach the major leagues, is a curveball from a righthanded pitcher. In his six pro seasons, he has averaged a strikeout every two to three at-bats.
"One of the things that we've worked on is . . . Anthony gives a pitcher way too much credit sometimes," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. "Especially one that has a righthanded breaking ball. I saw him the other night [in Reading]; with two strikes, a guy left a breaking ball up in the zone and he hammered it, I think, right at the centerfielder. For me, that's progress. That's kinda what we're trying to do. I like the direction the guy's going."
This year, at Reading, Hewitt has been streaky. He started out well, but then went through a 3-for-31 slump with 14Ks. Through Monday night, Hewitt had his average up to .248, striking out once every 2.9 at-bats. He is hitting .350 against lefties but just .224 against righthanders.
"Everyone goes with their expectations of what they want me to do," said Hewitt. "And for people in general, you set your own goals and [try] to meet them. Have your own expectations. Don't really follow what everybody else wants you to do. What if you really can't do that?"
Hewitt has the tools. He can run, has a solid arm and can hit the ball out of the park. He hit 25 homers (with 104 RBI) in 2 years at Class A Lakewood and smacked 13 and knocked in 50 at Clearwater last season.
But he has yet to connect at Double A Reading and has knocked in just seven runs.
Jordan, however, isn't deterred.
"The reality is, and I really, really believe this," Jordan said, "is that he's still wearing a uniform, he's improving as a player, he still has all the physical abilities that Marti [Wolever, the Phillies' assistant general manager of amateur scouting] and his staff saw when they took him.
"He's a better player right now than he was this time last year. He's gotten better in the outfield, he's gotten better as a hitter. I'm still in the camp that this guy's going to play in the big leagues. He's getting better and that's what we want."
One thing is assured: Hewitt won't stop working.
"I've been like that since I started playing ball," Hewitt said. "My dad pretty much instilled that into me: Hard work pays off. No matter what you do in life whether you're a teacher, mathematician, engineer or whatever, you work hard and good things will happen. So that's what I live by."
After a few humbling seasons in which he hit .197 for the Gulf Coast Phillies in his first year, and .202 at Lakewood in 2010, that work ethic is constantly being tested. But Hewitt said he is no longer getting caught up in his draft status or his stats.
"I'm just having fun," Hewitt said. "I'm not worried about anything. I'm out here playing a kid's game and I'm going to enjoy it that way. Everything will take care of itself. Just go out there and have some fun. The ball's hit in the outfield, you just go catch it. That's it. The ball's in your zone, go hit it. That's it. You have an opportunity to steal a base or advance, go get it. That's it. Simple."
If only it was.