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Las Vegan Joey Gallo still hitting ’em into the trees in Triple A

Joey Gallo, the strapping first baseman for the Round Rock Express from Texas, went 1-for-4 against the 51s on Wednesday night at Cashman Field.

The one was a home run into the trees beyond the right-field fence. The other three times up he struck out.

It was sort of a typical Joey Gallo performance.

On Thursday night, he smacked another one into the trees. He also hit a double and only struck out once.

Gallo departed his hometown hitting .252 with 25 homers and 62 RBIs with 122 strikeouts in 309 at-bats. The power numbers are solid, he said. He’s getting on base a lot.

He really doesn’t care that much about the batting average and the strikeouts.

“It’s been good. It’s definitely an improvement from last year when I was here for the first time,” said the personable slugger who hit 67 home runs during his high school career at Bishop Gorman en route to becoming a big league prospect of the highest order.

“Power numbers are good, getting on base (his OBP at Round Rock is .385). This last part of the season, you get tired, so you want to keep grinding, finish out hard at the end.”

What about cutting down on his strikeouts and putting the ball in play a little more during his September call-up to Texas?

Nah. Not really his game. His game is Adam Dunn’s game, or fellow Las Vegan Chris Carter’s game, or Teddy Roosevelt’s. Speak softly. Carry a big stick. Swing it like you mean it.

Don’t worry about striking out.

“When you go with the approach of putting the ball in play, I’ve learned it kind of backfires and you start to strike out more,” Gallo said during a mini news conference at Cashman’s clubhouse level restaurant. “My plan is to go up there and do damage, get a good pitch I can hit — try to hit mistakes hard.”

When he was called up from Double A to Texas in June 2015, Gallo did serious damage. He hit a mistake very hard against the Chicago White Sox — it left his bat at 108.5 mph and wound up in the second deck of Globe Life Park some 444.6 feet from home plate.

Gallo also had a single and a double and knocked in four runs in a spectacular debut. He was pushed out of the dugout by other Rangers for a curtain call. His mom and dad were there. He bashfully doffed his batting helmet.

Great for his confidence, he said with a winning smile. Maybe not so great because it raised the bar on expectations of him to Ukrainian pole vaulter level.

“I always tell people it was a blessing and a curse,” said Gallo, who started the 2016 season in Texas, where he went 1-for-15 with nine strikeouts. The one hit was a home run.

“When you come out and you explode, people jump to expectations and stuff like that — I was still only 21 years old.”

He’s still only 22. He’s still young; he’s still learning how to hit. He seems happy to be biding his time in Round Rock. By next year, he wants to become a regular big league player, and then he hopes he’ll never have to hit another home run into the trees at Cashman Field. Unless it’s on Big League Weekend.

Joey Gallo said his mom, Laura, made her famous spaghetti with meatballs on Tuesday night. Then he smacked two meatballs served up by 51s pitchers into those trees.

It was good to be home.


 

THEY CALLED HIM THE STREAK

Francisco Mejia, a catching prospect for the Cleveland Indians, went 0-for-3 with a walk the other day for the Class-A Lynchburg Hillcats, which terminated his hitting streak at 50 games — the longest in the minor leagues since they were reclassified in 1963.

It was the most enduring hitting streak since Roman Mejias — just add an S — hit safely in 55 games in a row for the Waco Pirates of the Class B Big State League in 1954.

For those scoring at home and keeping track of hitting streaks, young Mejia’s is the fifth-longest in baseball history.

The baseball announcers invoked Joe DiMaggio’s name, and other hitting streaks they had seen or were familiar with. One mentioned White Sox manager Robin Ventura having hit in 58 consecutive games for Oklahoma State when he was in college.

When Ventura came through Las Vegas with the Cowboys to play against UNLV, I remember asking if there was anything special he did during the streak, honoring a superstition or whatever. Oklahoma State had this towheaded bat boy, and Ventura always rubbed the little guy’s buzz cut for good luck.

A little while later, I saw him do it in the on-deck circle. Then he strolled to home plate and hit a line shot for a double.

CASEY ON THE DIG

Every four years when the Olympics roll around and they show beach volleyball, I am reminded of the time at the Rio hotel pool where they were having one of those sand volleyball tournaments, and I was talking with Casey Jennings, who had played on Brigham Young’s 1999 national championship volleyball team.

Before that, he had played soccer for Clark High School.

I remember another beach volleyball player sidling up and kissing him and calling him “Honey.”

It was Kerri Walsh, the three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball, when she possessed only one gold medal. She and Casey Jennings had just gotten married.

This was in 2006. Now she has added a surname and a bronze medal from Rio to her collection, and she and Casey have three children.

I also remember what Casey Jennings said at the Rio hotel pool about living on the beach in California with Kerri Walsh.

“Dude, it’s an effin’ Cinderella story.”

GREEN POOL EXPLAINED

Jim Reitz, the former UNLV swimming coach, sort of explained why the diving and water polo and synchronized swimming pool at the Olympics turned green. It was a highly technical explanation, much more technical than the German diver who famously said “the whole building smells like a fart.”

Reitz said if the Olympic committee would have let Mike Mintenko do his thing, the diving pool wouldn’t have turned green.

Mintenko, from the hockey-playing locale of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, swam for Reitz from 1994 through 1998, and then for Canada in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. He is married to Lindsay Benko, an American gold medal-winning swimmer.

Mike Mintenko is director of sales for Myrtha Pools USA, which built the pool used at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, and also built the main pool in Rio, neither of which turned green.

RAIDERS RADIO GA-GA

Like that old Queen song, Las Vegas is going Radio Ga Ga over the Oakland Raiders, as two local stations — KXST 1140-AM and KXTE 107.5-FM — will carry Raiders games this season, according to a list of radio partners on the team’s website.

Make of this what you will.

Raiders games also can be heard on KASR 92.7-FM in Vilonia, Arkansas, although I haven’t heard anything about a new stadium going in down there. In fact, quite the contrary — when one performs a Google search for Vilonia, Arkansas, the little photo that pops up is of tornado damage.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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