Mom knows best for Padres’ Venable

Will Venable said he owes all of his baseball career achievements to his father, Max Venable, who played 12 seasons in the majors.

But it was Venable’s mother, Molly, who urged him to play baseball at Princeton, where he played basketball for four years and earned his degree in anthropology.

“My dad always thought I could play,” the right fielder said before going 0-for-4 and scoring twice in Tucson’s 9-5 win over the 51s on Wednesday night at Cashman Field. “But it was really my mom that — didn’t force me but — strongly suggested I keep playing baseball.

“So I did, and she was right.”

After two years away from the game, the 6-foot-2-inch, 201-pound Venable joined the Tigers’ baseball team his sophomore year and hit .344 as a junior.

He batted .385 with nine homers as a senior, when he became only the second athlete — after former Padres teammate Chris Young — to earn All-Ivy League first-team honors in baseball and basketball, his first love.

But after San Diego drafted him in the seventh round in 2005, he decided to pursue a professional baseball career.

“I went to school for basketball, and I always loved basketball, then I realized that there was no future in the NBA for me, unfortunately,” said Venable, who helped lead Princeton to the 2004 NCAA Tournament. “I could’ve gone overseas to play basketball, but I didn’t know what my ceiling was in baseball at the time, and I decided to give it a try.”

The 28-year-old tripled in his first major league at-bat for the Padres in 2008, when he spent most of the year at Portland, where his father was the team’s hitting coach.

In 2009, he hit .256 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 95 games. Last year, he batted .245 with 13 homers, seven triples, 51 RBIs and 29 steals in 131 games.

“Last year was a good test, because I just didn’t feel good the whole year and it was just one of those grind-it-out kind of years,” he said. “And everything was going well for our team, so I just wanted to contribute something every day.”

Venable has struggled this season, hitting .224 with no homers in 40 games for the Padres before he was optioned to Tucson on May 24.

“It’s just sometimes you lose it, and I lost it,” he said. “It just wasn’t happening for me. Sometimes you can’t really put your finger on it; you just hope you can work it out, and that’s what I’m doing down here.”

Venable homered twice and tripled Friday in his third game with Tucson, but he’s batting .219 (7-for-32) through eight games.

“I’m getting closer. It’s just not something I’m just going to be able to flip a switch on,” he said. “I’ve got some work to do, and I’m excited to do it.”

■ NOTE — 51s third baseman Brett Lawrie sat out Wednesday’s game because of a bruised left hand and is day to day. The 21-year-old, who was hit by a pitch Tuesday, is batting .354 with 15 homers, 49 RBIs and 11 steals in 52 games.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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