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Fick’s Average Dropped to Another Area Code

It’s tough enough to hit without having one eye on your brother.

The batting average of Arkansas Traveler left fielder Chris Fick dropped from a team-high .347 to barely over .300 during the time Cal State Northridge battled in the West Regional last week.

After every game, Fick rushed home and phoned the Stanford hotel where the Matadors stayed. If he couldn’t reach his brother, Robert, the Northridge catcher, Chris simply asked to speak with his parents, Charles and Gloria, his sister, Judy, or his brothers Bill, Chuck, Joe and Tony.

All were at Stanford watching Robert, an All-American who helped Northridge to a runner-up finish in the regional.

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“It’s important to me to see him do well,” Chris said. “He’s been blessed this season. He’s my best friend and I’m proud of him.”

Chris will visit his brother next week in Millington, Tenn., where Robert is trying out for the U.S. Olympic team. Millington is only a three-hour drive from Little Rock, Ark., where Chris lives with his wife of eight months, Shauna.

Until then, Chris will turn his undivided attention to his career, which has never looked more promising. Signed as an unheralded free agent out of Cal Lutheran two years ago, the left-handed hitting outfielder has hit well at every stop.

In 47 games, Fick, 26, is batting .306 with 10 doubles, seven homers and 28 runs batted in. He was Texas League player of the week three weeks ago but last week fell into a one-for-23 slump.

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“I was swinging at pitches out of the zone and taking pitches in the zone,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with my swing. Now I’m hitting the ball hard, right at people.”

On Wednesday he drove a ball to the center-field wall that was flagged down on an over-the-shoulder catch by Dante Powell of the Shreveport Captains.

“I need those hits, Dante,” Fick shouted good-naturedly to Powell as they passed one another after the inning. “Don’t tell me that, Fick. You’re hitting your .300,” Powell replied.

That’s about Fick’s norm. He led St. Petersburg of the Class-A Florida State League last season with a .293 average, 25 doubles and 13 home runs.

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He has noticed a difference in the pitching this year in the double-A Texas League, however.

“You can be ahead in the count, 2-0, 3-0, and still not get a fastball,” he said. “They pitch backwards. I’ve had to learn day to day.

“We play a five-game series against the same team, so if they get you out on a certain pitch the first day, that’s all you’ll see. Our first game against Shreveport this week I got a curve and hit it out. I haven’t seen a curve since.”

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Joel Wolfe, a Chatsworth High and UCLA product, also plays for the Travelers. Wolfe is in his first season with the Cardinals’ organization after spending five years in the Oakland Athletics’ system.

Wolfe, 25, was handed the first-base job in spring training and usually bats third, but he has not produced, batting .186 with seven doubles, one home run and 15 RBIs. He leads the team with eight stolen bases.

“It’s funny, seeing a guy under .200 batting in the 3-hole, but they are sticking with me,” Wolfe said. “This is the most-frustrating time of my whole life. In spring training I did really well, and they expected certain things of me. I haven’t done anything so far.”

This is Wolfe’s second full season in double A. He batted .256 with 12 home runs, splitting time between first base and the outfield last year for Huntsville, Ala., of the Southern League.

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He was traded during the off-season for third baseman Dave Madsen.

“I was real happy,” Wolfe said. “I would have been the fourth or fifth outfielder in triple A and the Cardinals said I could play first every day in double A with a chance to move up. It was like a new life.”

Wolfe seemed to snap his slump against Midland, Texas, a couple weeks ago by hitting a home run, two triples and a single. But the productivity was short-lived.

“I’m staying positive,” he said, adding that recently he worked with his personal batting coach, Cleveland Indian scout Craig Wallenbrock.

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“I’m trying not to press. I think the hits will come.”

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Two pitchers from Pierce College are posting dominant numbers for Fayetteville, N.C., the Detroit Tigers’ affiliate in the Class-A South Atlantic League.

Right-handed relief pitcher Bryan Corey, from Thousand Oaks High, has 11 saves and a 1.15 earned-run average, striking out 40 and walking 10 and giving up 19 hits in 31 1/3 innings.

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Left-handed reliever Mike Eby is 2-0 with a 1.60 ERA, has struck out 43 and allowed 21 hits in 33 2/3 innings. He’s from Westlake High, Pierce and Cal State Sacramento.


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