Waring sets the table for St. Al
Published 12:26 pm Thursday, May 13, 2010
Right before Pierson Waring steps the batter’s box, he stretches.
Or, at least, does something that looks like a stretch.
In an elaborate 30-second routine, the St. Aloysius senior shortstop reaches down to touch his toes; does a couple of quick torso twists with his bat behind him; spits into his hands and rubs dirt on them; maybe pats his helmet; and then finally steps into the box, where he takes a couple of quick practice swings.
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The whole thing, which looks to be equal parts ritual dance, routine, and martial arts movements, is typically capped off with a line drive to the outfield and a scintillating sprint around the bases.
“I have no clue,” Waring laughed when asked about the routine. “It’s just a habit, and I’m kind of superstitious. I do a bunch of weird stuff when I bat. In the dugout, I clean the toes of my shoes, then I spit on my hands and rub my helmet.”
Waring’s teammates don’t argue with success. They just laugh it off and appreciate the results.
“That’s his happy place,” St. Al coach Clint Wilkerson said. “He goes to there and gets his mind right. Whatever makes him hit .450, man.”
Waring’s average this season is a bit lower than the .456 he posted last year — .386, to be exact — but he’s still putting up some remarkable numbers. His five home runs lead the Flashes this season, he’s third on the team with 31 RBIs and first with 43 runs scored. The six-year starter also needs five more hits to reach 200 for his high school career.
The power and run production numbers are especially impressive, considering Waring is St. Al’s leadoff man. The top spot in the order doesn’t usually lend itself to RBI opportunities, but a strong effort from the bottom of the order the past two seasons has put Waring in a unique position to drive in runs. He has 79 RBIs the past two years, and at least 20 in each of the last five seasons.
Waring is also a rare power hitter at the top of the order. He has 28 doubles and nine home runs the last two seasons, both tops on the team.
“Most leadoff guys are contact guys and get on base. I hit for more power,” said Waring, a Hinds Community College signee. “I go up there to swing. Most guys take pitches. I probably don’t have as many walks as other guys, but I probably hit for more power.”
Waring’s ability to be more than a table-setter has had a profound effect on St. Al’s lineup. Because he’s such a potent force, it compels pitchers to adjust their approach. The bottom of the order sees a better pitch selection because pitchers don’t want runners on when Waring comes up. And once Waring gets on base, they have to pitch differently to the hitters behind him.
St. Al’s No. 9 hitter, Brendan Beesley, has a .391 average this season. The No. 2 hitter, Blake Haygood, has a .432 average.
Waring also does a lot of things you’d expect from an ordinary leadoff hitter. He has 68 career stolen bases, including 12 this season, and has scored 170 runs the past four seasons. Wilkerson said it’s the kind of impact he’s come to expect from his team captain.
“When you get a guy that hits five home runs and 15 doubles, you don’t want to get to him. You’ve got to feed the guys at the bottom of the lineup. You’ve got to get them out. Pierson is a game-changer. He doesn’t have to be in the box to affect the game,” Wilkerson said. “That’s why he’s got a ‘C’ on his jersey and nobody else does.”