Ryan McQueen isn't your average cleanup hitter.
He hasn't gotten caught up in the home run fad. He considers himself a gritty player who hits for a high average and steals a lot of bases. Omar Vizquel and Nomar Garciaparra are his Major League Baseball idols, not Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
That's why it was a shock to McQueen, his teammates and coaches on the Loudoun Post 34 team a few weeks ago when he did hit a home run during a game.
"It surprised me. I didn't even think it was going to go over," McQueen said. "It felt kind of weird circling the bases."
It was McQueen's first home run since Little League. But he has promised not to fall in love with the long ball and is continuing to play the style of ball that has endeared him to coaches and earned him an invitation to walk on to the baseball team at Virginia Commonwealth University this fall.
McQueen is hitting .384 for Post 34 through last weekend's games. He hit .440 with 23 RBI and 18 stolen bases for Loudoun Valley this spring. As the Vikings' starting second baseman, he played every inning, and even had some stints at shortstop.
"He's just a great kid and a pretty good player, too," Post 34 Coach Carl Watkins said. "He's one of our top players."
When McQueen joined the team last month, he didn't tell Watkins he had a sore wrist and continued to play, Watkins said. McQueen said he's unsure how he hurt the wrist -- it started feeling sore during the first round of the Region II playoffs in the spring. He had X-rays taken, but the results came back negative.
Lately, McQueen said the injury, still undiagnosed, has flared up again.
"It's not all that bad," he said. "It's just when I swing that it hurts."
And that's not a hindrance?
"It's not that bad," he answers.
McQueen is nonchalant about his injury, but his style of play is aggressive. He steals bases at every opportunity, getting caught "once or twice, I'm not sure," this spring at Loudoun Valley.
"I go, unless someone's on base ahead of me," he said. "I like to steal whenever I get on."
Off the field, McQueen is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a national organization, as well as Young Life, a group that meets once a week at school to sing and pray.
He intends to major in physical education at VCU, and he would like to become a high school baseball coach. He wants to take a team to the state playoffs, something he wasn't able to do at Loudoun Valley.
McQueen's goal for the summer, he said, is to prepare himself better for college pitching. Last year in legion play, he was worried about impressing coaches and showing he could hit at that level, he admits. With that behind him, McQueen said, he's now better able to concentrate on the pitchers.
Right now, he's batting cleanup for Post 34, despite his aversion to hitting home runs. Still, he said the spot suits him.
"I've been hitting a lot more doubles and extra base hits than I had before," he said. "But I don't think of myself as a cleanup hitter, because when you think of one you think of a lot of home runs. That's not me."
CAPTION: "I don't think of myself as a cleanup hitter, because when you think of one you think of a lot of home runs," said Ryan McQueen (34).