Ballou rises with Nationals

Published 8:20 pm Saturday, September 21, 2013

During a recent telecast of a Major League Baseball game, former Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and Marshall University standout Isaac Ballou was recognized as one of the Washington Nationals’ minor-league leaders in on-base percentage.

Ballou was drafted by the Nationals in June and began playing for one of its minor league teams, the Auburn Doubledays, at the Class A Short Season level. In 59 games, he produced a .405 on-base percentage, along with a .294 batting average.

His consistent, quality play helped him move up recently to the Class A level with the Hagerstown Suns in Maryland.

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“I felt like it’s definitely been a long time coming, and I’m thankful for the opportunity, to say the least,” Ballou said of his career move.

His move up to the next level in the minor league system took place a few weeks ago. About a week remained in the Doubledays’ season, and he was pulled from the lineup.

“It was kind of weird,” he said. “I was playing pretty well, and I thought something was up.”

He had been tipped off prior to his meeting with Auburn’s manager about what was coming. “I was excited,” he said.

The manager still managed to surprise Ballou, though, by first joking that he was being moved down, before congratulating him on his move up.

Ballou said getting promoting within the Nationals’ system has little to do with statistics, particularly for a first-year draftee like himself.

Rather, it is a matter of exhibiting quality habits. He said it is more about “how you play, not so much the result.”

What helped him out was the he “did a pretty good job at having quality at-bats and not swinging at balls outside the strike zone,” he said. “If you have enough quality at-bats, your batting average is going to take care of itself.”

Ballou’s father, William, is pleased.

“It’s a tough game to play,” he said. “It’s mentally draining at times, and I’m just proud of him. I’m proud that he continues to give it his all, and he continues to work hard.”

His son’s ever-present work ethic keeps William Ballou from being completely surprised by his success.

“Even when he was a kid, we’d go to practice early, stay late, and even when he was over at NSA, he’d go practice, and then we’d go in the gym and hit the batting cages, and if we weren’t doing that, we were up the street at Beale Park at eight, nine o’clock at night, practicing,” William Ballou said.

The elder Ballou was watching the Nationals game when his son’s name flashed up on the screen. “When I saw it, it was just a big smile is basically what it was,” he recalled.

Isaac Ballou was excited to know his play is noticed at the top.

“For sure it’s definitely a blessing to see that and know that I’m doing something right for them to recognize me, especially on national TV. That’s cool,” he said.

Moving from Auburn to Hagerstown meant a golden opportunity for some of Isaac Ballou’s family, including his grandfather, Charlie Ballou.

“My dad had never seen Isaac play baseball until about three weeks ago,” William Ballou said.

As Isaac Ballou moves forward, he is taking things day-by-day, with two major priorities.

“I really focus on trusting God, number one, just making sure I’m right with Him,” he said. “Number two is not really worrying about my stats.”

Ballou has been playing baseball non-stop since January. Though Hagerstown’s season is over, he is currently participating in a Florida instructional league for prospects the Nationals are interested in, but he will soon get a well-earned break when games conclude in early October.