Young Portland catcher works to snap out of hitting slump
by: KATIE HARTLEY, Portland catcher Nick Hundley crosses home plate with the Beavers' lone run in a 9-1 loss to Fresno on April 6. Hundley, playing Triple-A ball after a standout season with AA San Antonio, is batting .099 in his last nine games but says he's "seeing the ball well," while playing good defense.

The Portland Beavers' Nick Hundley has been scuffling, no doubt about it, but the Corvallis-born catcher remains positive.

'I feel really good. I just keep grinding through it,' says Hundley, who went 0 for 5 Monday against New Orleans, making him 3 for 33 in his past nine games. 'I feel good at the plate. I'm seeing the ball well.'

Hundley, who did not play in Tuesday's 12-11 win at Omaha, was born in Corvallis and lived there for five years. His father, Tim, played football at Western Oregon and then coached there. His mother, Pam, went to Oregon State. Both went to Forest Grove High, and Hundley has aunts and uncles and grandparents in the Portland area.

He played college ball at Arizona. He has lived in many places, including El Paso, Texas, where his father coached at Texas-El Paso. Recently, Tim Hundley was hired as an assistant head coach for defense at Southern Methodist - by former PSU quarterback, Grant High grad and Hawaii head man June Jones, the new SMU head coach.

'They actually just met this year, but in the coaching fraternity, everybody knows everybody,' Nick Hundley says. '(Tim Hundley's) been around a long time, coached a lot of good guys.'

Jones' run-and-shoot offense certainly gives the defense margin for error, but 'you still gotta stop them, doesn't matter,' Nick Hundley says.

Interesting point - because Hundley has been stellar on defense as he works on his hitting in Triple-A. He has thrown out nine of 19 would-be base stealers (.473), good for second in the Pacific Coast League.

The toughest adjustment 'has been probably trying to get Triple-A hitters out - calling games,' he says. 'These are smart hitters, they've been around, and they know how to make adjustments quickly.'

His veteran backup, Luke Carlin, and pitching coach Glenn Abbott have helped him learn hitters, 'but sometimes you've got to go on the fly,' Hundley says.

Hundley, 24, hit .247 with 20 homers and 72 RBIs at Class AA San Antonio last year. He hasn't been put on parent San Diego's 40-man roster; thus, Colt Morton, who is on the 40-man, got the big-league call from San Antonio when Michael Barrett was injured last month.

'Colt's been in the organization, he's done a good job,' Hundley says. 'Doesn't bother me at all. That's the business of baseball. I got a great opportunity here to get better. This is a great organization. I'm blessed to be a San Diego Padre.'

Hundley's average has dipped to .213, and he hasn't homered since April 18 - he's stuck on four.

It's his first stint at Triple-A and pitchers 'have a lot of different things they can do - off-speed pitches for strikes, sinkers, cutters - they're polished guys,' he says.

'There's not a lot of straight (pitches)," he adds, "everything's moving or diving. There's more four-seam fastballs at Double-A; guys haven't developed a cutter, yet. That's a big pitch here, no doubt about it.'

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