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  • Feb
    25

    I'll Take Nate McLouth

    Written by BoltonBob

    What most people didn't know, even those as close to Nate as his parents, was that he suffered a mysterious injury as early as the second game of the 2011 season. After first going on the disabled list with an oblique problem, McLouth incurred yet another setback when it was discovered that he had been playing nearly the entire season with a sports hernia, a problem that required surgery in early August.

    "I'm getting better," McLouth said last winter (2012). "I'm not totally 100 percent yet, but I'm working out hard at the University of Tennessee with a physical therapist. "I'll be ready to go shortly and be as healthy as I've been in a couple of years when I go to the Pirates spring training. I feel really good now and I'm just working to get myself back to full speed."

    And yes, the trade was a complete surprise, as Nate had signed a 3 year escalating contract, but Pittsburg was always "unloading" in those times......,....His first injury occurred shortly after June 5, 2010, when McLouth collected his 500th Major League hit. McLouth was placed on the disabled list on June 9 after a collision in right-center with right fielder Jason Heyward at Chase Field. While Heyward remained uninjured, McLouth experienced concussion-like symptoms for several weeks. After returning from the injury in July, McLouth faced a horrible slump that warranted him being demoted to the Gwinnett Braves, the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.

    Nate was an All Star and won a Gold Glove in 2008, yet many still question his defensive and offensive capabilities, but former Pirate GM Neal Huntington has a different take. In 2007, he assigned a video assistant to splice together footage of every defensive play outfielders McLouth and Nygel Morgan made in 2007, not just fly balls.

    The determination, one that might have surprised more observers than, was that McLouth was, in the words of one team official, "just as good, maybe better." Huntington also analyzed all players' hitting tendencies and McLouth, in 2008 was seeing a team-high 4.5 pitches per plate appearance. In 2002, he struck out once every 9.44 plate appearances in Class A and walked nearly as often, establishing uncommon command of the zone, an element never stressed by previous management, including manager Jim Tracey, who only started Nate, a lefty, when resting veteran Chris Duffy, against tough lefthanders.

    As Pirates hitting coach Don Long put it, "That approach he has, that patient, sweet-swinging style, that's not something you teach." When he was 4 years old, "Nate would take pitches," said his father, Rick McLouth. "Honestly, if he didn't like what I threw, he wouldn?t even budge."

    Here's wishing the best for Nate the oldest of the three boys, who grew up in a tight family in quiet, quaint Whitehall, population 2,800.

    "The thing that struck you about Nate wasn't just his talent," said Warren Zweigle, his coach at Whitehall High School. "It was the way he applied himself, how hard he worked to learn and get better at everything." He batted .514 as a senior and went 51 for 51 in steals, and shared the state's Mr. Baseball honors and was honorable mention on USA Today's All-America list. He quarterbacked the football team to their only two state championships.

    After graduating from Whitehall, stealing a total of 179 bases in 180 attempts, McLouth was selected by the Pirates in the 25th round of the 2000 June draft, although he had a full scholarship to the University of Michigan. They offered $100,000, and it was rejected despite it being miles above 25th-round money. The Pirates learned they would not be able to sign a fourth-round pick, so that money could be shifted to McLouth. Duane Gustavson, the scout handling the signing, met with the McLouths for five hours at their home and offered $500,000, plus full college tuition if he attends someday.

    I'll take Nate over a lot of folks...


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