Boise catcher Hamlet Marte is as sure of a bet as you’ll find in the lower minor leagues. And he said his secret remains simple — be boring.
The 21-year-old from Salcedo, Dominican Republic, has found himself on base nearly every game the past two years. In Grand Junction last season, he recorded a hit in 37 of his 44 games and drew a walk in four other games. He only failed to reach base three times in an entire season.
He hasn’t maintained the same pace this season in Boise, but he’s not far off. He’s recorded a hit in 14 of his 21 games before taking a day off Sunday and has reached base in 17 of 21 games.
“It’s not easy to do, especially as a catcher,” Hawks manager Frank Gonzales said of Marte’s consistency. “You get wore down, and he hits right in the middle of our lineup. I think for me, the biggest thing with Marte is when he’s going good, he’s ready to hit. There is not a whole lot of extra stuff going on. He does the little things like getting his foot down and just trying to drive the ball, not trying to lift the ball.”
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Marte credits his pregame routine, which remains the same every day and purposefully simple. He takes one-handed swings with his left hand, then his right hand before moving on to two-handed swings. Then, it’s game time and all he thinks about is seeing the ball and hitting the ball.
“Hitting is hard. You know, it’s hard,” Marte said. “That’s why I try to keep it simple, because that way I can feel it’s easy to me.”
For all of his success at the plate, Marte struggled behind it last season in Grand Junction, allowing 12 passed balls in 34 games. But he spent the offseason working on his receiving and has only allowed three passed balls in 17 games with Boise behind the dish. And he’s boosted his caught stealing percentage from 7.2 percent last season to 18.5 percent this summer.
He said he’s focused on using his eyes more while catching, allowing his instincts to take over. And the Rockies have worked with him to treat every bullpen and practice session with a machine like there are runners on base looking to pounce on any mistake.
Marte, who didn’t start playing baseball until he was 13, struggled in his first two years as a pro, hitting .181 in 2011 and .178 in 2012 in the Dominican Summer League. He said he didn’t know how to have fun playing baseball, which is hard to believe considering his jovial nature as a leader in the Hawks’ clubhouse.
But once he figured out how to enjoy the sport, he started raking in 2013 and hasn’t stopped since.
“The factor was my confidence,” Marte said. “I wasn’t having fun. When I learned to have fun in that sport, things just starting coming. It was just like that (snaps fingers).”