Bowie seems to have found itself a power hitter. And all the Baysox had to do was look behind the plate.
Catcher Eli Whiteside, a sixth-round pick in the 2001 draft, hit four home runs over three games last week and has a team-high seven.
Moreover, he has hit those seven in only 21 games and 65 at-bats entering last night's game against Erie, meaning that Whiteside, a 24-year-old New Albany, Miss., native, is averaging a home run every 9.2 at-bats. He is tied for eighth in the league in homers, but of the seven players ahead of him (Reading's Ryan Howard leads with 12), all have played in at least 10 more games and some 20 more.
For a player who only hit a total of 18 home runs in his previous three minor league seasons, this power surge is almost Bonds-like.
"A new little stance I've got going," said Whiteside, who also threw out two runners in Friday night's 5-1 victory. "I'm just using my hands a lot more than my body, I think. I just let my hands work. There's a lot less moving parts."
A year ago this week, Whiteside sprained his left ankle and missed five weeks of playing time with the Baysox. Upon returning to Bowie last July 3, however, he never got his swing groove back. He hit just .194 in his final 44 games of 2003.
This season, Whiteside is back on track, hitting .308 with 17 RBI and a .692 slugging percentage. After starting his first game on April 23, he promptly hit his first home run of the season the next night. Whiteside was splitting time with Lance Burkhart, but should play more while Burkhart recovers from a broken thumb.
"He's a solid makeup, a team guy," Bowie Manager Dave Trembley said. "He's really improved his abilities to call a game, work with the pitching staff. He's going to be a major league catcher."