Minor League Notebook : Fishel, a Former Titan Now at Tucson, Keeps Adjusting and Improving


John Fishel has made many changes in his baseball career. Most of them have led to success.

“This game’s just full of adjustments,” Fishel, who played at Loara High School and Cal State Fullerton, said. “But you’ve got to do whatever it takes to get better.”

Fishel, 25, plays right field for the Tucson Toros, a triple-A team affiliated with the Houston Astros.


Last week, Fishel hit four home runs to bring his season total to 13, which leads his team and is third best in the Pacific Coast League.

Fishel started hitting home runs after he made a slight adjustment in his batting stance.

“I started standing a little straighter to get a bit more leverage,” Fishel said. “I’m sticking with it now.”

In 1984, Fishel was named most valuable player when he led Fullerton to the College World Series title. Although he hit .380 that season, Fishel wasn’t known as a home-run hitter at Fullerton.

That has all changed at Tucson.

“He can pack a wallop,” said Bill Gleason, the Toro clubhouse manager. “He goes for the long ball. He’s going to be a major league star.”

Fishel certainly hopes so. In 70 games, he’s hitting .293 with 43 runs, 13 doubles, 5 triples and 50 RBIs in addition to the 13 home runs.


Fishel said that in 1984, he thought his chances of becoming a professional ballplayer would depend on moving to the infield, probably second base, the position he played in high school.

But with his sudden power-hitting surge, Fishel is feeling more comfortable with the thought of a career in the outfield.

“(At Fullerton) I don’t think I thought I’d be as good of a hitter as I am now,” he said. “At that time, I wasn’t real fast, and I never got a ton of home runs.

“But now, if it so happens that I’ve become a home-run hitter, then home runs are what is going to get me there.”

Fishel’s minor league career began in 1985, after he was drafted by the Astros in the ninth round.

(Fishel had been drafted twice before: in 1981, in the eighth round by the New York Yankees, and in 1984, in the 19th round by Oakland. Fishel turned down both offers to stay at Fullerton.)

He started in Class A at Auburn, N.Y. In 1986, he went to Osceola, where he led the Florida State League with 36 doubles.

Last year, Fishel played double-A ball at Columbus, Ga., where he hit .278 with 24 home runs. He went to the six-week instructional league at Phoenix in the fall and hit .368 with 25 RBIs.

This spring, Fishel was placed on the Astros’ 40-man roster, and he hit .260 with a home run in an exhibition game against Boston.

“That was my big minor league highlight,” Fishel said. “After that, they sent me to Tucson, and here I am.

“Now I think I’ve reached the farthest step I can reach without falling off. It’s either up or out around here. I think about (being called up) every single day.”

Fishel has another reminder of his goal--an empty room in his house.

“My roommate (catcher Craig Biggio) was just called up last week,” Fishel said. “A guy got hurt in the big leagues. Craig got a call at midnight and left at 2 in the morning. It kind of puts me and my other roommate in a bind. It’s another adjustment we have to make.”

Fishel says he’s as ready as ever for such a call. “You hear good things, and you know that when you’re doing good, things will happen. The better you do, the better your chances are. But if you’re doing bad . . . “

Well, adjustments can always be made.

Greg Pirkl, The Times’ player of the year from Los Alamitos High School, is doing well for himself in his first two weeks with Class-A Bellingham, Wash. (affiliated with the Seattle Mariners).

Pirkl, a catcher and designated hitter, is hitting .318 with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs.

Pirkl’s impressions of minor league baseball?

“I’m living on my own and I’ve got my own house,” Pirkl, 17, said. “I didn’t expect all that. I was just expecting to come up here and just play ball. And playing every day, that’s another thing. I’m used to playing 21 games in a season. Here, we play 21 games in 21 days.”

Pirkl arrived in Bellingham June 11. His first week, he said, wasn’t very impressive.

“I only got drinky-dink hits,” he said. “I couldn’t get my timing down. Finally our hitting instructor, Marty Martinez, made a few adjustments. A lot of adjustments, as a matter of fact. But that did it for me.

“Actually, it was kind of awkward. I came up being the second-round pick, and I think everyone expected me to crush the ball every time. The coaches stuck with me, though, so now everybody is happy.”

David Dawson, a former Orange Coast College pitcher, signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers this week.

Dawson, a right-hander, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers last summer after he played at OCC in 1987. He was 0-1 with a 6.61 earned-run average in 16 innings at Bristol (Va.) in the Appalachian League in 1987. He was released by the Tigers after spring training this year. He will be assigned to the Dodgers’ rookie team in Great Falls, Mont., in the Pioneer League.

Dawson, a 1985 graduate of Culver City High School, played at West Los Angeles Valley College in 1986 and was 10-2. But after the college dropped baseball, he transferred to OCC, where he was 5-3.

Former Garden Grove High star Mike Batesole, a 14th-round draft choice of the Dodgers in 1985, moved last week to double-A San Antonio from Class-A Vero Beach (Fla.).

Batesole was hitting .285 at Vero Beach and was a member of the Florida State League All-Star team.

With San Antonio, Batesole is hitting .407 (11 of 27) in seven games.

“This is great--it’s a big step for me,” Batesole said. “I’m just so happy to get moved up. Everything is so positive. It’s just carrying over into my hitting.”

Batesole said he has been playing several positions for San Antonio--first and third base, designated hitter and catcher.

“As long as I get in there and hit, it doesn’t matter to me,” Batesole said. “Just let me hit.”

Shane Turner, a member of Cal State Fullerton’s 1984 College World Series team, was demoted last month from the Phillies’ triple-A team at Maine to double-A Reading, Pa.

Turner was hitting only .179 at Maine. As of Wednesday, he is hitting .346 with 4 doubles, 4 triples, a homer and 9 RBIs at Reading.