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Bo Hart

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Postby j_d_mcnugent » Fri Jun 27, 2003 7:01 pm

he is a decent short term pick up if, for example, you have jeff kent and need a fill in. he will cool down before too long. i think he hit around .290 last year in triple a but he is a career .265 or so hitter in the minor leagues.


Bo-Dacious: Rookie second baseman is making a big splash
By Dan O'Neill

In 1982, when the Cardinals lost starting outfielder David Green to an injury, they dipped into the minor leagues for little-known outfielder Willie McGee. The modest McGee went on to bat .296 and star in the postseason as the Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers and won their last world championship.

In 1984, when McGee went on the disabled list, the Cardinals called up infielder Terry Pendleton. A second baseman in the minor leagues, Pendleton was only supposed to stick around for "seven to 10 days." Instead, he took the town and the National League by storm, batting .444 during his first three weeks in the majors. He became the club's regular third baseman and stuck around for seven years.

In 1999, the club broke camp with outfielder Ray Lankford and shortstop Edgar Renteria nursing injuries. The medical uncertainties cleared space for little-known utility man Joe McEwing. The perpetually moving McEwing, aka "Super Joe," put together a 25-game hitting streak in midseason and became a cult hero with St. Louis fans.

Into this tradition of underdog lore steps the appropriately named Bo Hart. In a span of four games, the previously anonymous prospect has injected the Cardinals with effervescence and become a darling of the downtown crowd. You might say fans of the flock have taken to the newly appointed second baseman, Hart to heart.

"This is the best place to start a career and hopefully I'll finish it here, too," said Hart, 26, who is batting .471 since joining the club on Thursday to replace injured Miguel Cairo. "It's a great town to play in and I hope I can continue to enjoy it."

Baseball coach Steve Hertz is in his 28th year at Gonzaga University. He runs a no-nonsense program that insists players take pride in their effort. "It's kind of a Gonzaga tradition," sports information director Oliver Pierce said. "If you strike out, you run back to the dugout, and if you don't, Steve is in your face letting you know about it."

In Hart's two years at Gonzaga, he never had Hertz in his face, never had him in the same ZIP code. Where the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Hart was concerned, the teacher effectively became the student. "I remember my assistant coach coming back after watching him play a junior-college game," said Hertz, who has been watching Hart's heroics with the Cardinals via satellite television. "I remember him saying, 'We have to have this guy, coach. He made some amazing plays, and he had this amazing energy.' He's always been that way. "I think me and about 9,000 other coaches ask our guys to play as hard as they can, but Bo is one that, well, put it this way, and I've used this expression only one time in my 30 years of coaching: Bo Hart celebrates the game when he plays. It's something special and it is genuine. He's as genuine as any kid I've ever been around." Hart went to Gonzaga after spending two years at Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif. By that time, he had already learned to overcome adversity. As a junior shortstop at Soquel High in Soquel, Calif., he was used only on defense, passed over in the batting order for a designated hitter. Countless hours in the batting cage had paid off by the time Hart reached college baseball. He was an All-West Conference shortstop for Gonzaga, with enough pop in his bat to pound 13 home runs in each of his two seasons. In 1999, Hart was drafted in the 33rd round by the Cardinals and signed for $1,000. Those aren't exactly "can't miss" numbers, but the bottom line was served. "To get my foot in the door, I think that's all I really needed," Hart said. "I think even being drafted that late, I was a little disappointed, but it wore off and I went to work. I got the coaching I needed to get better and that's what I've been trying to do." Players picked so deep into the draft face long odds. Still, Hertz knew Hart had a legitimate chance. "I thought at the very, very least that he would be a tremendous organizational guy," Hertz said. "I mean, he can play anywhere, he can play shortstop, third and second. Plus, he's just tremendous in a clubhouse. Teammates love him, fans love him. With him, it's the real thing." Manager Tony La Russa expounded on that thought: "I'll tell you what his teammates appreciate: More and more, young guys who are special athletes in whatever sport get spoiled in high school and college and they develop an arrogance, a 'coolness.' They don't really want to show people how excited they are. "They think they've got to act like they've been there for 10 years and it's no big deal, and that ticks off the veteran guys who have paid their dues. But this guy walks in and he's excited to be here, and they appreciate that. It's fun to watch a guy who is excited." The zealous Hart has had to be patient, as well as persistent. His professional career has been a series of starts and stops, stunted on three occasions by broken bones in his hands. At Class A Potomac in 2000, he missed two months with a broken hand while batting .256. Back with Potomac the following season, he batted .305. At Class AA New Haven last year, Hart suffered a broken thumb after getting hit with a pitch, and he wound up hitting .249. Coming into this season he had been hit by pitches 52 times in his four-year minor-league career. In college, he was hit so often the trainer had to create a protective device for him. "One day, his elbow looked bigger than his thigh," Hertz recalled, "so the trainer rigged up a deal for him. So Bo is kind of responsible for inventing the device you put on your elbow at Gonzaga." Bumps and bruises notwithstanding, Hart has kept coming. This season, he was batting .298 overall and leading Class AAA Memphis with 35 multiple-hit games before the parent club called. At Memphis, Hart started games at second base, shortstop, third base and designated hitter. For the Cardinals, he figures to be planted at second base until Cairo or Fernando Vina mends. With the fast start, La Russa had Hart batting leadoff in the order in the last two games of the Kansas City series, and why not? He batted first for Gonzaga, where he was "one of those guys you hate to see come to the plate if you're on the other team," Hertz said. The Anaheim Angels won a championship last season with one of those guys - David Eckstein - at the top of the order. A leadoff pest would be the perfect fuse for the Cardinals' volatile lineup. "I look at the lineup for Tuesday against Cincinnati," La Russa said. "And if we can write him first, followed by Drew, Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Renteria, Martinez . . . to me that's a heck of a lineup. But if he has to hit eighth and then you have to stack your lefthanded hitters early, it's not as good." To make it work, Hart has to continue to work counts and get on base. "If you're doing well as a big guy and they start working you over, when they get behind 2-1 or 3-1, they still might keep messing with you," La Russa said. "If you're a little guy in that situation, they're going to throw you a ball over the plate. So as long as he works that strike zone to his advantage, he has a good chance. He has to be aggressive, but aggressive within the strike zone." How long the romance might last remains an open question. Perhaps major-league pitchers will home in on Hart; perhaps he will level off. "I'm not going to worry about it at all," said Hart, whose full first name is Bodhi. "I'm just going to go out and play hard. If I get hits I get hits, if I don't I don't. I don't make those decisions. I just have to worry about what I can do out on the field." Perhaps the new Hart of the order is only temporary, or perhaps, like those Cardinals who have unexpectedly blossomed before him, he will become a fixture for years to come. "You don't know how many times you see guys with great ability and for one reason or another, they don't do anything with it, don't ever make it," Hertz said. "When it happens for a kid like that, it's really special." More than a few, seduced by the vitality, enchanted by the lyrical name, will be hoping this Hart can go on and on.
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