Sports

Young Boise Hawks battle ups and downs of minor-league baseball

In a dugout full of players who were too young to vote in the last presidential election, emotions are not always the most stable.

For players on a short-season Single-A minor-league baseball team like the Boise Hawks, handling the ups and downs of a burgeoning professional career is a big part of the learning process beyond batting, fielding and pitching.

“We’re helping establish a foundation at this level, and that also means having a mature approach when things go wrong,” Hawks pitching coach and major-league veteran Doug Jones said. “Sometimes you have to put them out into the fire, let them toast, and then you see what you get after that.”

Coming from college or high school, where they were the best players on their teams, it can be an adjustment for some to feel out the minor-league competition or find their way into regular playing time.

“It’s a process. They’re young guys. ... Most of the time it’s not mechanical, it’s mental, and that’s harder to fix,” Hawks manager Andy Gonzalez said.

The Hawks don’t have a psychologist in the locker room, so players lean on coaches — Jones, Gonzalez and hitting coach Scott Little all played in the majors. And the players tend to lean on each other, too. They’re all in the same boat, taking the same long bus rides, eating the same food, and seeking the same major-league goal.

“You’ve got to trust that it’s a long season (76 games), that we’re only (13) games in, that if you put in the work, do the right things, it’s going to turn around,” Boise first baseman Jacob Bosiokovic said.

“You just have to put it in a little perspective. If I see a guy down, you have to remind him of that.”

Only three Hawks came into Tuesday’s game hitting better than .250, including Bosiokovic, who was hitting a blistering .353 in his first 10 games. He said he knows baseball is a humbling game, and pointed to a season-ending injury in 2015 at Ohio State as helping him prepare for the tough moments, knowing he’s been through worse.

There are also some like pitcher Michael Zimmerman, a 19-year-old who has yielded four, one and eight earned runs in his three starts this season for a 9.49 ERA.

Zimmerman turned down an interview request.

“Guys like him, he’s 19, and we’ve seen positive things like his second start. It’s just a matter of them trusting themselves and gaining some confidence,” Gonzalez said. “You identify what kind of people they are. Some guys want to be talked to right away. Guys like (Zimmerman), they get pretty emotional. You give them their space and talk to them the next day.”

Said Bosiokovic: “If someone wants some external help, they’re my teammate, and I’ll be there for them. Some guys prefer to handle it internally, and you just let them know we’ve all had bad stretches, that they’ll get past it.”

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_southorn

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