After struggling and hearing some words of wisdom, Dalton Pompey has grown and is set for a breakthrough in 2016
Dalton Pompey is the guy with two stories, and that has the possibility of becoming one big story this coming season. Could the story be that he’s the Blue Jays break out player of 2016? That is definitely a strong possibility so it’s time to take a closer look.
Let’s start with Pompey’s statistical story, the one that just looks at things by the numbers. Pompey, only the sixth player born in Ontario to play for the Blue Jays was drafted right out of high school in 2010. A switch hitter, he was named #2 Blue Jays prospect, and #7 best outfield prospect in 2015. He wasn’t without struggles though. He missed much of the season in 2012 due to a broken hand but seemed to find his stride at Lansing in 2013, where he played 115 games, batting .261 with six home runs, 40 RBI and 38 stolen bases. It’s the year he received the MiLB Golden Glove, recording zero errors for that full season.
In 2014, Pompey played with the Dunedin Blue Jays, was part of the 2014 All Star Futures game and finished with a .313, nine home runs, 52 RBI and 43 stolen bases. It was September 1, 2014 that he was called up to the Blue Jays as a pinch runner against the Tampa Bay Rays, had his first at bat against the Chicago Cubs (a groundout RBI) and had his first multi hit game against the Baltimore Orioles with two runs and two RBI by hitting a double and two triples. That made him only the third Jays rookie to have two triples in one game. Seems promising doesn’t it?
Pompey rode the numbers and started 2015 as the Blue Jays starting CF, but that’s when things started to go sour. After 23 games he dropped to .193 and on May 2nd was sent down to AAA Buffalo to see if he could find his groove. He didn’t. He was sent down further, on June 6, to AA in New Hampshire to see if that would bring his numbers back. He posted .209 in 23 games with Buffalo, .351 in 31 games with New Hampshire and .327 in 42 games back in Buffalo. He needed the regroup, to get away from the glare and expectations put on a hometown boy in front of a hometown crowd. He spoke of this problem at the time with John Lott of the National Post.
Friends, family, fans – I think a little bit of everything was coming on to me,” Pompey said. “There was only one me, and I felt like I was just trying to do way too much, and I wasn’t really able to focus on what I really needed to do, and that’s playing the game. It got to me a little bit, I’m not going to lie. But now I feel like a totally different person. I’m able to handle that and move forward. The person I am now is a lot different than I was in April.
It was September 2015 when Pompey was again called back to the Jays. His posted numbers for 2015 were .223 with two home runs, six RBI and five stolen bases. He played 34 games in the regular season. Post season, he recorded a single at his only at bat as well as four stolen bases.
So his numbers in a nutshell have been akin to a rollercoaster…not the best way to ride a pro ball career. Then there’s the second story of Dalton Pompey. This story has more to do with heart and grit than numbers and stats.
There’s been a lot of talk this past season about the chemistry and camaraderie in the club house after the trade deadline last July. AA himself spoke of the great and supportive atmosphere that existed, the encouragement and family like way those players dealt with each other. They were hanging out, dining together, playing video games, riding scooters. They seemed to bring back the love of the game, a brotherhood of players helping each other attain a goal – that goal being the first post season for the Jays in 22 years and a solid run for the World Series.
Pompey seems to thrive in that sort of positive atmosphere and we can well believe his heart and love of the game can take him far. He is exceptionally fast, as we saw when he stole both second and third base in Game 6 of the ALCS, and has learned to focus better. This improved focus coming in part by advice he received from Stubby Clapp, a former infielder from Windsor, Ontario, and the hitting coach at New Hampshire.
Clapp told me, and (Class A manager) Dennis Holmberg told me back in the day, if you do like three to five things a game to help your team win, you earn your paycheque that day,” Pompey told John Lott. “That’s the approach I started to take – if I can help the team (by doing) three things a game, whether that’s making a diving catch, throw a guy out , walk, runs scored, whatever. It simplified the game for me and put less pressure on getting hits or getting RBIs.
He is showing his readiness by stepping up his visibility game as well, calming fears of his “stage fright like” 2015 start. His Twitter presence during the #BellLetsTalk campaign was truly inspiring, retweeting thousands of fans and tweeting continuously for hours to keep the conversation going.
Pompey has certainly been able to grow support from the Toronto fan base, stepping up to the plate and putting in the work. So here’s to looking forward, playing with both grit and heart, and to growing into the hometown hero he seems destined to be here in the 6ix.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.