The Hawks are excelling in what some baseball fans see as a lost art.
They lead the Northwest League with 69 steals in their first 32 games — 20 more than the next-best team, Everett.
It’s a philosophy that starts with the Colorado Rockies, the Hawks’ major-league affiliate that stresses aggressiveness and putting foes on their heels.
“You think about it as kind of an inner thing, wanting to run hard, thinking why and when,” Hawks manager Frank Gonzales said.
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Last season, the Hawks had 69 stolen bases in 76 games. In the last 10 seasons, only one team in the NWL has topped 150 steals — Yakima had 156 in 2010.
Fifteen players have at least one stolen base for the Hawks this season, with two among the top four in the league. Kevin Padlo is second with 16 and Carlos Herrera is tied for fourth with 14.
“I might call for it once or twice a game, but I’d say 80-90 percent of the ones they steal are on their own. It’s open — they’ve really bought into it,” Gonzales said.
The player who is “a classic example,” as Gonzales put it, is 19-year-old Padlo. Before coming to Boise, he had eight steals in 75 games between rookie league and Single-A Asheville. His output for the Hawks has come in just 29 games.
“I’m not the fastest person, but I’ve been able to get some good jumps, good reads ... ,” Padlo said.
Gonzales says Padlo’s maturity to anticipate pitchers’ movements is “amazing,” while Padlo said he’s been aided by coaches who routinely use stopwatches to time pitchers’ deliveries and the speed at which catchers return the ball.
“I didn’t get on base much in Asheville, but when I got here, figured out my swing a bit, I wanted to show something else, too, because I knew I could be a good baserunner,” Padlo said.
The aggressiveness on the base paths also can help the batter, Gonzales said, when a pitcher’s mind isn’t 100 percent on the guy in the box.
“We don’t have the fastest team in the league. A guy like Padlo’s probably average or below average speed, but we get just about everyone doing it, so it’s cool to see,” Gonzales said.
Padlo couldn’t imagine besting Rickey Henderson as a base stealer, though he is on pace to top Henderson’s 29 steals for the Hawks in 1976, fourth-most in team history. Nick Belmonte’s team-best of 52 in 1978 may be out of reach, but the faster players like Herrera will sometimes rib the third baseman about his newfound prowess on the basepaths.
“They joke about it, ask if I’m going for a record or something, but I’ll come back at them, point out I have more, then they’ve got nothing to say,” Padlo said.
SPOKANE 8, BOISE 3
The Hawks trailed 8-1 before they picked up their first hit in the fifth inning Monday night against the Indians. They added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings. The Indians (15-17) racked up 13 hits, including a pair of triples, while the Hawks (11-21) had seven hits, led by catcher Hamlet Marte’s 2-for-4 showing. Boise pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts. The same two teams play Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Memorial Stadium.