Whenever a team gets a new coach, sometimes the mindset for a player is to try to impress that coach in order to show them that you are the player the coach will want in their lineup.
David Hall, a redshirt-junior centerfielder, not only expected a lot of himself, but wanted to show new coach Ryan Wheeler the kind of player he knew he was last season. Now with a new outlook and approach to the game, Hall has proven to Wheeler that he can be an everyday starter and a key contributor to the Owls’ 2013 success.
“A lot of it had to do with mindset,” Hall said. “Last year didn’t go as planned. I expected a lot of myself, maybe a little too much from the beginning. I went back to some of the old techniques that had gotten me in trouble in the past and I didn’t stop.”
In his first at bat last season, Hall suffered a torn labrum which took an extended period of time to recover from. In 33 games played in 2012 and 13 starts, Hall batted .133 with eight hits in 60 at bats. Hall added 7 RBI and one home run to his 2012 total.
“I’ve always been able to do things on the field, but I definitely struggled at the plate,” Hall said. “Last year was not a good show of my abilities.”
Prior to the arrival of Wheeler, Hall’s freshman season was a brief showing of the potential the outfielder had. In 13 games played in 2011, Hall recorded eight hits in 19 at bats with one double, one triple, and one home run, accompanied by three RBI which led to a team leading .421 batting average.
“With all of the changes [at Temple], mentally he just got caught up trying to impress me,” Wheeler said. “He couldn’t get out of his own way. Now, he has relaxed a little bit and let his ability take over. He has really been a better player since.”
This season, Hall has compiled his best season at the plate. In 20 games and 12 starts, Hall is fifth on the team with a .291 batting average with two doubles, two triples, one home run and 15 RBI. Hall is also third on the team with a .455 slugging percentage.
“No, not at all,” junior right-fielder Bobby Heitzman said about whether Hall’s success this season is surprising. “I think we all knew it was just a matter of time until he started to blossom into the player he could be. He has a lot of tools and it was just a matter of time until he broke out.”
“[Hall] is a very good teammate all of the time and even when he struggled last season, he kept his head up,” senior leftfielder Allen Stiles said. “He is always working hard and leads by example in the outfield.”
Although Hall is a 6-foot-3-inch batter with a lot of power, he has found himself typically batting sixth in Wheeler’s lineup.
“I didn’t want to pressure [Hall] to drive in runs,” Wheeler said. “Both Derek Peterson and Matt Elko are doing fine jobs in the middle of our lineup now. Those two are setting table and Hall at the bottom half of the lineup is picking up those runs and sparking our offense.”
Hall said he doesn’t care where he is batting in the lineup.
“I love playing the game, and with the success that we are having, I wouldn’t mess with anything as far as the lineup is concerned,” Hall said. “I can count on the player behind me to get it done if I don’t and that is huge. My philosophy is that if something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.”
For Hall, coming off of a season in which he tried to impress Wheeler and didn’t have much confidence as he struggled at the plate was difficult. Primarily known as a defensive staple in centerfield, Hall took a new approach to the 2013 season to bring his bat back to the level he knew it could be.
“I just needed to simplify a few things,” Hall said. “When things aren’t going your way, everyone looks toward the mechanics, but I had always had descent mechanics. I needed to come to the plate expecting the right outcome. The coaches [at Temple] have instilled in us to hit the ball hard if you get your pitch. It is something I am looking for in the beginning of every at bat until I have two strikes on me. It is really helping me mentally at the plate with my approach.”
Although Hall struggled at the plate last season, Wheeler told Hall this offseason that if he is swinging the bat well, he will stick with him.
“David Hall has got a tremendous amount of ability,” Wheeler said. “He is a young man that is a very legit prospect for professional baseball. He is just a very talented young man.”
After graduation in 2014, Hall plans to pursue a career in physical therapy and credits Owls’ trainer Marc Proto for inspiring such a career path. Hall added that if he is given the opportunity to play professionally, it would be a dream come true.
“Just a shot,” Hall said. “All I need is a professional team that is willing to take a chance with me. It would be such a special experience for me, but for right now my goal is to help [Temple] to win games. As long as we are winning and I am contributing, that is what I would consider a successful season for me personally.”
As of right now, Hall said he hopes to remain a fixture in Wheeler’s lineup while remaining healthy and effective.
“I hope that the one word to describe me is productive,” Hall said. “Batting averages will go up and down and you will always have good days and bad. Hopefully I can continue to be productive and help the team earn a spot in the Atlantic 10 tournament.”
John Murrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JohnMurrow12.