Teeing Off

May 6, 2012

By Jon Cooper

Sting Daily

– There’s no known correlation between a baseball swing and a golf swing.

The two share some characteristics but there are few similarities.

Georgia Tech shortstop Mott Hyde can’t find one, but, more important, has found his baseball swing, and he traces it to playing golf.

“I’ve heard that baseball swings mess up golf swings and golf swings mess up baseball swings,” he said. “So I have no idea.”

Hyde does have an idea about what he’s doing at the plate, a real good idea. The sophomore shortstop heads into Wednesday night’s season finale with Georgia at Russ Chandler Stadium (first pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.) with a .273 batting average on the season, having gotten hits in 11 of his last 15 games, during which he’s batted .365 (19-for-52). He’s also scored 15 runs and driven in 10 in that span. Tech has gone 10-5 in those games.

That’s a vast improvement over how the sophomore started the 2012 season. He started slowly, with his average hitting its nadir on March 10, following an 0-for-2 day at NC State that dropped him to .170.

Things started to turn around from there. He hit .300 (12-for-40) over the final dozen games of March, with four multi-hit games, driving in runs in three of those four games, and raising his average 60 points to begin April at .233.

“[The season] didn’t start off like I wanted to but Coach Hall and all the other coaches tweaked little things in my swing,” he said. “I think we’ve found something and it’s working so we’re going to stick with it.”

After a tough series at Florida State, Hyde got back on a starting on April 10, against Mercer, when Hyde had a two-hit, two RBI game. That began the current stretch, during which he has put up six multi-hit games.

Hyde was hitting the ball solidly, but the ball began jumping off his bat beginning with the April 24th game against Georgia at Turner Field, when he went 3-for-4 with a double and a homer (he also scored three runs, including the game-winner). That power burst followed a pre-game golf outing at the Bobby Jones Golf Course, their course of choice.

“We went out to the driving range. We were just kind of messing around,” said sophomore third baseman Chase Butler. “He said, ‘I feel like my baseball swing is getting better the more we play golf.’ I said, ‘Alright, then I guess we could keep coming.’

“We don’t go out there for long, maybe 30 minutes,” Butler added. “He went and he hit the home run and the double and we went before Friday night (against Clemson), when he hit the two home runs. He came in the dugout and he said, ‘It’s got to be golf. It’s got to be. It’s the only answer I have.'”

Since that visit to the range prior to the Georgia game at Turner Field, Hyde has gone 9-for-24 (.375), and is slugging .833, having blasted three homers — including two in the 13-inning, 6-5 victory over Clemson on April 27th — and two doubles. He’d totaled two homers and six doubles in the 39 previous games.

“I’m just trying to make solid contact and spray the ball wherever,” Hyde said. “If they go, they go.”

Hyde admitted he feels the difference in the way he’s driving the baseball since he’s started driving golf balls.

“It helps me to cut everything down and slow my swing down a little bit and make things a lot smoother and easier,” he said.

He added that golf’s calming effect on him mentally may be more important than anything it’s done physically.

“The biggest thing is it’s taking my mind off of baseball, letting me relax a little bit,” he said. “Zane [Evans] and three or four other guys on the team started playing. It’s just a way to get our minds off of baseball.”

“You just go out there and have fun,” said Butler. “We laugh at each other because we’re not very good. We have a good time with it. There’s no stress. We’re not worried about anything. We clear our minds then we’re able to come out here and kind of take the same approach. Just go out there, see it and hit it.”

Butler has noticed a much calmer Hyde.

“He’s not pressing. He’s relaxed and having fun playing the game,” he said. “He changed his batting stance a little bit. He’s started resting the bat on his shoulder, again, just totally relaxed, and then he’s just stepping, seeing it and hitting it. Instead of guessing with pitchers and trying to hit one pitch, he’s looking for a zone and hitting that zone no matter what the pitch is.”

With two ACC series left — at Virginia this weekend, then at home against Miami — the Yellow Jackets are holding on to the seventh spot among the eight qualifiers for the ACC Tournament. They hold the tiebreaker over Virginia Tech, with whom they are tied, but are only one win up on Wake Forest and Boston College (both of whom hold the tiebreaker). That’s a lot to think about.

Anything that can get reduce the players’ tension level is, obviously, a good thing and playing on off-days appears to be working for Hyde.

Regardless, he doesn’t expect to see trips to the driving range added to Coach Hall’s weekly curriculum.

“I’m not sure that [the coaches] would] be too happy with that,” he said.

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