The following is an excerpt of a story that will appear in this week’s edition of the Sunday News.
Tom Collaro doesn’t have the typical resume to be a succesful No. 3 hitter.
He doesn’t walk: He earned a career-high 34 free passes in 2007.
He doesn’t hit for average: He owned a seven-year career average of .245 entering the season.
And he doesn’t wow anyone with a high on-base percentage: He has compiled a .290 career OBP.
Yet after the first two weeks of the season, he may be in line to be the first Revolution player signed by a major league organization.
Oh, Collaro can hit, but his knocks usually come in the form of tape-measure bombs. Known by some of his new teammates by name only in spring training, Revolution catcher Josh Johnson saw him in the batting cage one morning and wanted to know if he was the big dude who ripped a shot over the center field fence against one of his former teammates.
Collaro had to think. Well, maybe he didn’t put it over the center field fence, but he did take the pitcher in question deep.
In his eighth professional season, Collaro has compiled double-figures in home runs four times. He’s also rated among the top five players in the league in strikeouts three different times.
But he’s started the season looking like a very different hitter. He’s been an excellent No. 3 hitter, the type of player who can keep a rally alive with a walk or a hit.
Through eight games he is batting .464 (13-for-28) with just one homer. He has six walks and four strikeouts. He has driven in seven runs. He went a combined 3-for-6 during the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs doubleheader sweep Thursday. And he showed why he has been so consistent, able to hit knuckleballer Joe Gannon and regroup before hitting soft-tossing lefty John Halama — including slugging his first homer of the season.
He took different approaches in both games, widening his stance to use his hands against the late movement of Gannon’s dancing knuckler. Against Halama, Collaro laughed. He got lucky. Instead of working away, Halama missed his spot on two change-ups that came inside, and Collaro clobbered both pitches.
But he’s not ready to celebrate his new-found success.
“Well, let’s just see what happens,” Collaro said with a smile. “It’s early.”
The odd thing about Collaro’s transformation has been York manager Chris Hoiles has not altered his swing. Noted for being able to help players tweak and improve their swings during his three seasons in York, Hoiles said he hasn’t suggested Collaro change a thing. Many times, new players come into the Atlantic League overconfident and quickly find themselves struggling or looking for another job. Collaro seems to be at the opposite end of the equation, a veteran player who has come in prepared to face some solid pitching. So far, he’s been a bright spot for a team that dropped to 3-10 on the season with an 8-3 loss to Somerset Friday night.
Best nickname: Last year, Lancaster’s Vasili Spanos took home top nickname honors. Teammates called the uber-intense infielder “Freakshow” to his face. He didn’t seem to mind. He was too busy being ticked off at himself for missing a pitch or not making a good enough play.
And although I have yet to hear a teammate call Collaro the name of a certain ex-President, a source within the organization has insisted players are calling him “Abe” or “Lincoln” because of his tall stature — listed at 6-foot-4 — and facial hair preferences. (He’s moved from goatee to chinstrap beard this spring.)
My hope is to see the Revolution front office take full advantage of this likeness. Perhaps have Collaro enter the field with a George Washington lookalike and drum and fife trio on July 6 — “Rev, White and Blues” night — before playing Camden. By the way, Dave Flood might make an excellent drummer boy.