BOISE — The easiest way to illustrate Lance Rymel's development in his second year with the Hawks is to point to his batting average.
Rymel finished with a .188 average last season in Boise.
This year, he's increased that number to .306.
But manager Gary Van Tol said Rymel's offensive numbers don't paint the whole picture of what the catcher has meant to the Hawks this season.
"He's been our No. 1 catcher, and that, to me, is the most important position," Van Tol said. "His defense is his strength, and what he gives us offensively is a bonus."
Van Tol compares the catcher position to a quarterback in football.
"He's helped with his leadership because he was here last year," Van Tol said. "He knows the scenery, he knows me and he knows the staff and what the expectations are."
Rymel was selected in the 28th round of the 2012 MLB Draft, and he said he's grown considerably since his first year as a pro.
"I've definitely gotten a lot better since last year," said Rymel, who credited his growth in large part to the offseason work he put in with former Hawks manager (and major league catcher) Mark Johnson and Cubs field coordinator Tim Cossins. "It's crazy how much better I've gotten in the past year because of those two guys."
Part of Rymel's development has been learning how to manage pitchers, and Van Tol said Rymel has earned his keep in the past few weeks as the pitching staff has gone through a major overhaul.
"He's catching bullpens every opportunity he can get, to see every one of these new pitchers pitch," Van Tol said. "It's critical, because he's getting thrown into the fire with those guys. He's got to be ready to sometimes catch five different guys in a ballgame, and they're all a little bit different."
All the while, he's also been working on his hitting, and it's been paying off. Rymel got the night off Saturday, but the next time he steps into the batter's box he'll bring an eight-game hitting streak with him.
"It feels good to be hitting again," said Rymel, who batted .318 as a senior, when he helped Rogers State reach the NAIA World Series in Lewiston for the first time in 2012. "Last year was a little rough, but I was playing every fourth game. Now I'm seeing a little more pitching and playing more helps a lot. My mindset is different and I'm way more confident. Hopefully, I can keep that going."
Chris Langrill: 377-6424