Ballou proves a steady proPublished 8:55pm Tuesday, July 9, 2013
NSA grad hits first homer in minors
Isaac Ballou was a standout baseball player for Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and then Marshall University. Now, he is off to an auspicious start as a professional.
After being drafted by the MLB’s Washington Nationals in June, he has begun playing for one of its minor league teams, the Auburn Doubledays. As of July 8, he had recorded 19 hits in 19 games played, and his success was recently punctuated by his first home run at the pro level.
Ballou explained that he is the kind of player that tends to hit doubles and triples, not home runs. Therefore, when he saw the ball go over the centerfield wall against the Jamestown Jammers, he said, “It was a shock.”
He said he was “seeing the ball” well in that game. He was 1-for-3 going into the momentous at-bat, when the pitcher threw a fastball. Ballou said, “I hit it on the line,” and then it sailed over.
“Definitely a pretty cool feeling,” he said.
Most significant for Ballou is the fact that this bit of offensive success has not been an isolated incident.
As the only team member to have played in 19 games, he is currently batting .284, leading the team in on-base percentage (.392) and runs scored (10).
Doubledays manager Gary Cathcart has been pleased with Ballou’s performance on the field, but particularly with his dedication off the field as a member of the team, which is a Class A short-season squad in the New York-Penn League.
“He’s been a very pleasant surprise,” Cathcart said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get through the draft.”
The Nationals took Ballou on June 8 in the 15th of 40 rounds, the 466th pick overall in the 2013 Major League Baseball draft.
Cathcart said the biggest challenge first-year pros like Ballou face is “just learning the daily routine of being a professional baseball player.” He said learning this and becoming consistent with it day-in and day-out is more important to a young pro than having gaudy statistics.
Confirming Ballou’s success in this area, Cathcart said, “He’s become an everyday player for us.”
Rather than just playing on the weekend, pros have games nearly every day of the month, and good time management between them becomes paramount. Their responsibilities include getting proper rest, eating correctly and hitting the gym two or three days a week with the team, in addition to other training.
Ballou admitted that the long days took some getting used to, but he also noted that the beauty of playing in the minors is being out there every day.
“You have no choice but to get better,” he said. “I guess you could dog it, but I definitely try not to do that.”
Ballou’s history with the game bears this out, including his college career.
“He’s been one of the hardest workers that I’ve ever been around,” Marshall head coach Jeff Waggoner said.
He said Ballou improved during his time with the Thundering Herd and was a great leader in the program. By graduation, Ballou had set four individual school records and ranked among the top 10 all-time in five statistical categories.
Waggoner exuded confidence in Ballou’s continued pro success.
“Baseball is going to be his career,” he said.
The potential to play pro sports was already on display at Nansemond-Suffolk, where Ballou excelled as a baseball, basketball and football player.
“He was very driven as a student-athlete,” NSA athletic director Betty Jean Riddick said.
Focusing now solely on baseball, Ballou shared how he looks at it while also deferring credit for his success.
“Baseball is definitely a sport where I can use my God-given ability,” he said.