The star of the playoffs looks back on some crucial moments on the way to the title…
Hector Pellot went on the Disabled List after the Slammers’ June 27 game against the Rockford RiverHawks. At the time he was hitting .272.
He returned to the lineup on July 17 a changed man at the plate.
“Getting injured for me was a blessing in disguise,” Pellot said. “I changed my swing completely. I spent like three weeks working on it. I couldn’t hit or take BP or work out in the cage, but I was tracking pitches in the bullpen, getting the feel for it, and then it was just great.”
In his return to the lineup Pellot blasted his first two home runs of the season. It was also the first multi-home run game in his career. Pellot finished the season with a team-best .319 batting average. The advice to completely re-work his swing came from an unexpected source: the Slammers’ reserve catcher, veteran Lee Rubin.
“He told me, hey you’ve got a lot more potential with that swing,” Pellot said. “He told me some things, then I got hurt and I had time to practice that stuff. The rest was history.”
Specifically, Pellot added a slight leg kick to his swing. This helped him with his rhythm at the plate and it also allowed him to put everything he had into every swing. Pellot is not a power hitter; he only hit four home runs on the year. But in the playoffs he hit two bombs while hitting a sensational .500 (13-26) with six doubles.
“At the end of the regular season, I was just feeling great,” Pellot said. “If they had given me 20 more games I would have hit .400 in the league, that’s how good I felt. Remember I started doing well with my swing change, but it was a change, so you have to adapt to it to make it consistent. I just got hot at the end and the playoffs were unbelievable.”
Pellot is not one to look at his numbers during the regular season. But one accomplishment he was proud of in 2011 was hitting over .300 for the first time in his career. Including the playoffs, Pellot hit safely in 21 of his final 22 games. It was a remarkable offensive breakthrough for the former fourth round draft pick who had struggled at the plate in the Mets’ farm system.
“When I got released from the Mets and I realized that I had to play independent ball, I didn’t have good hopes at all,” Pellot said. “I was just ‘okay, this is just one more opportunity that I’m going to have to play baseball.’ I didn’t have any idea what it would be like. But I think going to Joliet was the best thing that happened to me. It feels like my family now; I had the greatest host family in the world. It was just a wonderful experience, I love it there. It’s just great.”
Pellot described the level of play in the Frontier League as somewhere between high-A and double-A.
“The big difference of independent ball is that there are no more levels,” Pellot said. “You are there to win, not to move up. That makes it a little more fun and entertaining. We’ve got guys who signed out of college to independent ball and they’re not making much money at all, and they are just busting their tails off. It’s very impressive.”
Thanks in large part to Pellot’s brilliant performance in the playoffs, the Slammers won the title and for Pellot it was a dream come true.
“No, never, never, had I won a title before this,” Pellot said. “I can tell you it’s the greatest experience ever. No matter where you go in professional baseball it’s just so hard to win it, no matter what level. It could be rookie ball, independent ball, once you complete that goal; it’s just the greatest feeling in the world. I cried like a baby when we got that third out.”
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