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Flock crushes in final weeks of wooden bat NYCBL league

Flock crushes in final weeks of wooden bat  NYCBL league
Flock crushes in final weeks of wooden bat  NYCBL league
Walking back to the dugout, Alex Flock shares a high-five with a teammate. Photos by Thomas Photography/Syracuse, N.Y.

The sound of the crack of a bat.
The smell of peanuts and hot dogs.
The feel of the summer sun.
Baseball, particularly for college players, heats up during the summer months in the northeastern states. While the Cape Cod Baseball League is considered the top level of baseball talent, pooling from top MLB prospects, other organized leagues draw collegiate players as well.
Alex Flock, a North Harrison High School graduate, recently completed his second year at Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky. At the conclusion of his college season, Flock packed his car with a glove, cleats and baseball essentials to make the trek to New York.
Playing in the New York Collegiate Baseball League for the second straight season, Flock reunited with the Cortland Crush, a squad which dons colors as bright as the Crush Orange soda.
‘I said it last summer and again this summer, it has been the best two months of my life,’ Flock said. ‘I look forward to coming up here and playing.’
Playing games from June through late July, Flock had a rough start for the Crush before getting hot the final few weeks. In a doubleheader versus the Rome Generals, Flock was to rest during the first game then play game two. Instead, Flock had a memorable day when he came off the bench in game one.
Working a 3-1 count, Flock belted a fastball to the fence, bringing in a game-tying run for the Crush. The next at bat saw a Crush teammate hit a walk-off home run.
Game two, Flock carried over the momentum by nearly hitting for the cycle. He was a single short, going 3 for 4 with a double, a triple and a home run. In the win, Flock drove in four RBIs and scored once.
‘It was a good couple of final weeks,’ Flock said. ‘I started off really, really bad. I was hitting around .165 going into the final two, three weeks. It was brutal. An assistant coach here, (former minor league player) Shawn May, really helped me a lot with my swing. He’s tweaked some things ‘ hand position, my load, my stride; once he started working with me, it’s been unbelievable.’
Flock, who throws right handed and hits from the opposite side, earned Cort-land Crush’s Player of the Week honors the final two weeks. The week of July 16 through 22, Flock was named the NYCBL’s Player of the Week, carrying a .579 batting average during the stretch. He had three home runs and 13 RBIs.
Collecting at least one hit over his last 11 games, Flock raised his season batting average to .292, closing with eight doubles, five triples, three home runs and 32 RBIs. He also stole six bags.
‘Alex came in for his second year and was a great person on and off the field,’ Crush manager Bill McConnell said. ‘We loved having him back.’
One major adjustment going from the college game to the NYCBL is using a wooden bat.
‘It’s a pretty big jump if you aren’t used to it,’ Flock said. ‘The ball doesn’t go anywhere unless you square it up. Honestly, the wood bat is incredibly beneficial as a baseball player. You know when you hit the ball well and when you hit it poorly. You can tweak some things between (at bats), especially if you get into a hitter’s count.’
Flock said he prefers the wood bat because of the feedback from the contact generated in the previous swings.
‘You can get away with a bad swing with an aluminum bat, but, up here, a bad swing either breaks the bat or it won’t go anywhere,’ he said.
Statistically, Flock was an instrumental player for Brescia as a sophomore. He led the team in several categories: batting average (.375), hits (60), doubles (12), triples (two), home runs (five), walks (28) and stolen bases (18). The Bearcats, however, finished with a 12-35 record.
At the conclusion of the college season, Flock completed his transfer to Tennessee Wesleyan University, located in Athens. A player who can play multiple spots, Flock spent most of the summer playing left field.
‘Tennessee Wesleyan is another NAIA program, but they are consistently top 15 in the country,’ Flock said. ‘I’m excited to go join a successful program … There are no hard feelings leaving Brescia. I got a lot better there. I wanted to be on a contender, and Tennessee Wesleyan has a good track record. They’ve had some guys drafted out of there. It seems like a great opportunity for me.’
How did the transfer unfold? Flock recalled his first collegiate game for Brescia when the team faced TWU.
‘I struck out on three pitches against a guy who was later drafted by the Mets, a lefty,’ Flock said. ‘I turned around and finished the game 2 for 4.’
Previous Brescia coach Andrew Dixon had a connection with TWU, so Flock reached out to gauge interest, which turned out to be mutual. Dixon also aided in getting Flock to Cortland, having played in the league previously.
‘Playing two years at Brescia, I had to be a leader as a freshman,’ Flock said. ‘Then, coming to New York for two seasons, I got a good taste of how other guys carried themselves on and off the field. I could see what they do as far as workouts off the field and how to handle off days or down time. You really learn a lot. I’m excited to take what I’ve learned from Brescia and New York to try and help (TWU) win a championship.’
Cortland is located in upstate New York, between Syracuse and Binghamton.
‘The scenery is very mountainous and hilly,’ Flock said. ‘What people think of as New York, this is the complete opposite. The town of Cortland reminds me of Corydon. It has a small-town feel with lots of local support.’
The team played most of its games at SUNY Cortland, a perennial NCAA Division III baseball powerhouse. Flock’s parents also made the trip northeast for a week in early July.
‘My parents said it’s so cool how quickly the team gels and plays together,’ Flock said. ‘We had a guy from Texas, a guy from California and other local New England area guys on our team. It’s neat for a team that didn’t really know each other until we got together.’
Flock said one of his goals during the college offseason was to put on weight. His slim 6-foot-1 frame added 14 pounds while in New York. Add in the velocity of pitchers he’s facing, Flock has shown some added power.
‘I’m a lot bigger and stronger now,’ Flock said. ‘The pitching, if you square up a fastball, it’s going to go farther. If you can hit velocity well, find good pitches to hit, the bat can do the work.’
As Flock prepares to arrive at TWU on Aug. 5, he can bring the skills of seeing quality pitchers in the NYCBL.
‘Overall, it’s a really good league,’ Flock said. ‘The pitching I saw this summer was probably better than the pitching I saw at any point during college. You can usually count on seeing one guy throwing 90-plus once per game. There is one guy in the league that was hitting 97, so there are some legit arms up here. It’s really good competition.’
And, it was a good time.
‘It is summer ball, so we try to balance having fun while getting better at baseball,’ Flock said.