Whitehead getting into the swing of things|ECU standout hitting well in Cape Cod League

Published 10:18 am Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sports Editor

Trent Whitehead set a single-season record with 105 hits for the East Carolina Pirates last season. It was only a matter of time before the former Washington Pam Pack great found his groove in this summer’s Cape Cod League.
Whitehead, who hit .376 with seven homers and 47 RBIs for the Pirates in his sophomore campaign, is wrapping up his first summer with the Hyannis Mets. After a slow start, Whitehead is now hitting .250 in the wood-bat league.
“Over the last couple weeks I have been hitting the ball great,” Whitehead said. “I went through a spell for about two weeks where I really struggled.”
It’s the first time in his baseball career that Whitehead wasn’t seeing the ball all that well. The speedster said it may have been a blessing in disguise.
“It was good to deal with some adversity on my own,” Whitehead said. “I think that benefited me.”
After his superb season with the Pirates, Whitehead didn’t get much of a break before he headed to the Cape Cod League. He’s been playing virtually non-stop since then.
“It was tough to get adjusted to,” Whitehead said. “I haven’t had a break in awhile. I’ve never been a long way from home, and being away from North Carolina is tough, but it’s a great opportunity.”
Whitehead has 27 hits, including three doubles and two triples for the Mets. His 15 RBIs and 10 stolen bases are second best on the team.
He had been hitting below .200 before a recent hot streak. It took some time for Whitehead to get comfortable swinging a wooden bat instead of an aluminum one.
“You have to be short and you have to be quick with your swing,” Whitehead said of the adjustment. “The swing has to be pretty much perfect. If you don’t barrel it up, you won’t hit it hard. If you don’t do that, you won’t get good results.
“One of our hitting coaches gave me some advice. He told me to hold the bat differently to use my wrists more. Once I did that, I could hit balls more solidly.”
Whitehead, named to the Conference USA Second-Team following his sophomore season, had a chance to swing his bat at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
“That was pretty cool,” he said. “We just took a few swings. Just being there at the park, which has a lot of history, was cool.”
Besides swinging a hot stick of late, Whitehead has been playing solid defensively in the outfield.
“Defense is pretty tough here,” Whitehead said. “There’s no telling what kind of hop you’ll get, but it’s fun. The parks are a little smaller and I love going after balls at the wall.”
That is, when he can see them. Whitehead and the rest of the outfielders have had to deal with some strange weather conditions.
“The first week there every game we had fog,” Whitehead said. “That was different. I really never saw fog like that before. It was thick.
“There was one game where you couldn’t see two feet in front of you. I lost a ball in the fog in my first game. It ended up being a walk-off home run.”
Whitehead said the Cape Cod League has offered tough competition all summer.
“There’s a lot of great baseball players here,” he said. “You see some of the top players in the country playing day in and day out. You see pitchers who can throw the mess out of it.”
Whitehead believes playing in the prestigious league will benefit him down the road.
“Seeing the type of arms here and hitting with wood in the summer, then heading back and hitting with aluminum (next season) will make things so much easier,” Whitehead said. “It definitely prepares your for the next level.
“It’s a highly scouted league. Just getting in front of all these scouts and swinging with wood bats every day is key. A lot of people compare this league to Class AA minor league ball.”