Tristin English isn’t one of the more experienced hitters on the Amarillo Sod Poodles roster, at least if you look at the number of his at-bats this season.
But if you also look at the numbers, English has maybe been their best hitter lately.
By any standard, English has arrived late to the party for the Soddies. He was called up from the Sod Poodles Single A affiliate Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops on June 28.
English has shown rather quickly that he can hit at Double A since arriving in Amarillo. He had at least one hit in all but one of his 15 games with the Soddies and had an 11-game hitting streak end by going 0-for-5 in Friday’s 18-7 loss to the San Antonio Missions at Hodgetown.
For English, it’s been a matter of taking it easy, or at least not so hard.
“I think a lot of it comes from not putting too much pressure on myself,” English said. “I’m not being too caught up in the results, I’m just letting the results come. Since I’ve been here, I’ve kind of found a pretty good routine as far as warming up with my body.
“That and just being around guys who are a little bit older changes your perspective with the ability to kind of relax, especially with the ability of the lineup to put up 8 to 12 runs a game. You’re not putting so much pressure on yourself to hit a two or three-run homer.”
English was among current Sod Poodles with a .317 batting average after Friday, although his mere 58 at-bats might skew that a bit. When he got the call from Hillsboro, English was hitting seventh in the lineup to help ease him in a bit.
Since the beginning of the Soddies’ current home series at Hodgetown against San Antonio, English has been hitting second, which isn’t a surprise considering his productivity, which has included three homers and 12 RBIs.
He’s played first base, third base, left field and designated hitter in Amarillo, versatility which should help him move up the Diamondbacks chain. But it hasn’t been a rapid ascent up the ladder for the 25-year old English, who was drafted in the third round out of Georgia Tech in 2019.
Some of that was due to minor league baseball shutting down completely due to COVID in 2020, and until the call up to Amarillo, English had played his entire professional career in Hillsboro. That might have made him impatient to move up to the next level and press once he got to Amarillo, but that hasn’t been the case.
“A couple of weeks ago when I was in high A, all I could think about was putting pressure on myself so I could get to Double A,” English said. “Now that I’m here, after the first couple of games I felt the pressure to perform. Talking to (Sod Poodles manager Shawn) Roof a lot took some pressure off me. These were the same guys I was facing in high A and it’s kind of a loose atmosphere with the other guys who’ve been here the whole season.”
Roof didn’t see English on the basis and regularity he saw most of the other Sod Poodles throughout the season. That makes English a bit of a pleasant surprise.
“I’ve seen Tristin a little bit in the past but I didn’t know a ton about him other than what I saw in spring training,” Roof said. “He’s come up here and done a really good job. He puts together really good at-bats and controls the zone very well. When you do that and have a good swing, good things can happen.”
Circumstances dictated that English start his time in the Diamondbacks organization in Hillsboro, a park which has a reputation as not being hitter-friendly, or at least not as hitter-friendly as Hodgetown.
Hitters toiling at Hillsboro naturally find out about what it’s like to hit in Amarillo, especially from players who might be headed down for a bit. That’s incentive enough to perform, something English discovered.
“I love everything about this park,” English said. “The atmosphere feels more like minor league baseball that I watched growing up. There’s definitely lots of talk every single day in Hillsboro ‘Wait til you get to Double A.’ Hillsboro’s probably the biggest field in minor league baseball and it’s at sea level.”
At Hillsboro, English hit .261, so obviously he’s benefitted from the promotion, at least statistically. He’s lowered his frequency of strikeouts since arriving in Amarillo, which may be the key to his improved average.
Roof most likes English’s patience at the plate since becoming a Sod Poodle.
“He’s going to get a good pitch and he’s going to hit it hard,” Roof said of English. “I think he’s going to put up some numbers and hit some home runs, but he has more of a gap to gap approach and doesn’t try to do too much. When you do that you can see a guy like that have success.”
With only 63 at-bats in Double A, English is still in the developmental stage in Amarillo. If he continues to hit at his present level, he’ll likely be a Sod Poodle through the end of the season in mid-September.
Where he starts next season will largely be determined by how he finishes this one. English doesn’t have a timetable for reaching Triple A Reno.
“I’ve been saying I spent three years in Hillsboro so I’m preparing myself to be here as long as it takes,” English said.
If English has a natural position it’s first base, where he played at Georgia Tech. He also pitched there, although he wasn’t called on to throw the final inning in Friday night’s loss, a chore which went to right fielder Roby Enriquez.
Before reaching college, English had been a catcher most of his baseball career. He’s learned the value of versatility, which has explained how several of the Sod Poodles have moved between positions this season.
“We have a lot of guys that move around,” English said. “It really opens up the lineup with the ability to pinch hit and pinch run guys because you know you can put them in and then move someone to a different position. It’s really good for the team.”
English isn’t ticketed for a specific position in the Diamondbacks organization, at least not immediately. Versatility is important, but Roof thinks English’s bat will be what keeps him in any lineup.
“I think the D-Backs really value guys with versatility,” Roof said. “With his ability to go play three different spots it allows him to get in the lineup. I think these guys realize it doesn’t matter where you play as long as you get a chance to hit. You’ll get a chance to do some damage and open up some eyes.”