Patience Is Virtue To Success Of Jeremy West

Feb. 23, 2003

By Brian Gomez

Even if Arizona State junior designated hitter Jeremy West was in a slump, itdoesn't matter all that much now because he's certainly out of it.

West erased painful memories of an 0-for-9 skid in last week's Coca-ColaSpring Training College Baseball Classic during an impressive two-game seriesagainst No. 11-ranked Notre Dame in which he went 4-for-6 with eight RBIs andfive runs scored.

'I looked for a pitch I could hit, that's it,' said West, whose two-run homerin the bottom of the sixth inning Sunday afternoon at Packard Stadium sparkeda monumental rally that lifted the No. 5 Sun Devils to a 14-8 victory overthe Fighting Irish. 'Seeing the ball always helps your confidence. The lastcouple games I've seen the ball, so I was able to take my walks and get goodpitches to hit.'

After drawing walks in his first three at-bats, West made the most of anopportunity when he got a fastball over the middle of the plate from NotreDame senior right-hander J.P. Gagne. He launched a two-out home run off thelight pole in left-center field to cut the deficit to 8-6.

'They had been throwing me breaking stuff all day, so I knew they were goingto make a mistake sometime or another,' West said. 'I'm always looking forsomething to hit, whether they're making the pitch or not. I was just waitingfor that one pitch, and I finally got it.'

Every player that stepped to the plate scored during a nine-run sixth inningthat gave ASU a 13-8 lead. It marked the second time this season that the SunDevils struck for that many runs in a single inning, as they also posted anine-spot Jan. 19 in a 16-0 win at Hawai'i-Hilo.

West finally showed signs of improvement this weekend after his average hadsunk from .368 through the first six games of the season to .226 heading intoFriday's game. He went 1-for-2 with two RBIs against Dayton and he had a3-for-4 effort Saturday versus the Fighting Irish on the strength of atwo-run homer in the seventh inning and a grand slam in the eighth.

'If I put a good swing on a pitch, home runs will come,' said West, who hashit seven through 22 games this season to give him 26 in his career, the mostamong active Sun Devils. 'If you try to hit a home run, you very rarely do.If I put a good swing on it and if I hit it, it goes out.'

West is batting .276, a big drop from last year when he hit .356, led theleague with 70 RBIs and belted a team-high 13 home runs to earn first-teamAll-Pac-10 honors, but a hearty jump from where he was before this weekend.West credits his turnaround to some extra work in batting practice withJustin Ross, ASU's graduate manager who helps oversee academics.

'I don't know how many swings I take exactly, but half an hour or an hourbefore the game, I'll get in there and just swing it a lot,' West said.'Before practice and even after practice I hit.'

West's chances for success also have increased thanks to the hot hitting bythe players surrounding him in the lineup. While usually finding himself inthe Nos. 4 and 5 spots, West has been sandwiched between guys like sophomorefirst baseman Jeff Larish (.423 batting average) and junior right-fielderAndre Ethier (.363).

'All the guys I've got around me are going to back me up every inch of theway,' West said. 'The more people around you that can swing it, the morepitches you're going to get to hit.'

This season has brought a position change for West, who played first baseduring his first two years removed from Silverado High School in Las Vegas.West has started 16 games as ASU's designated hitter. As a backup catcher,West has made 24 putouts and has committed only one error for a .960 fieldingpercentage.

'Jeremy is an integral part of our ball club,' Sun Devil assistant coach JaySferra said. 'This game of baseball is a frustrating, humbling game becauseyou want to help the team, but you've got to let the game come to you. Jeremyis standing in there like a man, and that's what you like to see.'

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