Whoever coined the phrase “lead by example” probably had someone like Temple senior Al Roach in mind.
While most upperclassmen on the baseball team display their leadership in a vocal manner, Roach tends to take a different approach. He lets his bat and glove do the talking.
And in that sense, he may be the loudest guy on the team.
Through 24 games, Roach leads the Owls in batting average (.406), hits (39) and runs (28), and has yet to commit an error.
“He’s a young man dedicated to baseball,” coach Skip Wilson said. “Al is a player that just keeps improving.”
Roach’s impressive numbers and unique ability to lead without even realizing he’s doing so has helped guide the Owls to a 14-10 record, good for second place in the Atlantic Ten East Division.
“He helps the other guys make adjustments,” assistant coach John McArdle said. “We tell the freshmen to just watch Al and pay attention to everything he does.”
Roach was named A-10 Co-Player of the Week for the first week of April. During that week he had seven hits in 10 at-bats, scored seven runs and knocked in 10 RBI. In one game against University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Roach hit two grand slams and had a total of nine RBI.
Since his freshman year at Shawnee High School in Medford, N.J., Roach has worked on polishing his skills year round. He realizes hard work is the key to his success.
“I want to make sure my skills stay high and my potential stays at its prime,” he said. “I’m always trying to get better, and I never give up.”
Roach’s non-stop work ethic has paid dividends, and his production has not gone unnoticed. Wilson has received inquiries from Major League scouts about Roach, who has also worked out with Phillies hitting coach Greg Gross. Roach has also been to tryouts for the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers.
Despite the possibility of being drafted, Roach feels no pressure.
“It doesn’t really distract me at all,” he said. “I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I just try to stay relaxed.”
This is a familiar trend with Roach, who is not easily rattled.
“He’s never up and he’s never down,” senior centerfielder John Quigley said. “If he’s 3-for-4 you wouldn’t know it, if he’s 0-for-4 you wouldn’t know it. He takes the same approach to the plate every time and he always has success.”
As solid as he’s been at the plate this season, Roach has been even better in the field. Roach has registered two outfield assists and is the only starter without an error. He explains a simple technique for his flawless play in the grass.
“I really focus on taking the right angles on the ball,” he said. “And I usually just play a lot of balls safe.”
Roach knows that if he and his teammates can continue to play solid during conference play, they will have a legitimate shot at the A-10 title.
“If our guys step it up and the pitchers throw the right pitches, I think we will definitely be contenders down the stretch,” Roach said.
Jonathan Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.