BlueClaws Astudillo Aims for the Top
The last place Lakewood BlueClaws have been out of the playoff hunt for months, but there's another chase that the entire team is focused on that's set to go down to the wire.
With the regular season winding down, blossoming star Willians Astudillo is battling to clinch the Class A South Atlantic League batting title with his entire team behind him.
Following a 3-for-4 effort in the BlueClaws' home schedule finale on Thursday night, Astudillo sports a .340 average, holding a six point lead on the league's next best hitter, Delmarva's Chance Sisco.
The more you watch the exciting and fun-loving Venezuela native, Astudillo, the easier it is to see why his team has his back.
Behind the scenes, Astudillo keeps things loose, is a constant cheerleader in the dugout and is always the one to offer a teammate a boost, when it's needed. His teammates love him for it.
"We're all on his back. He's great! We want him to get every record possible," Lakewood reliever Joe DeNato stated.
Phillies third round draft pick outfielder Aaron Brown joined the BlueClaws earlier this month and, in a short amount of time, has grown impressed with the energetic and intense Astudillo.
"He could hit at any level and I don't doubt that at all," Brown said. "He's proved that this year and just watching him for the past two and a half weeks, it's been amazing the way he's able to just compete at the plate and he's a very tough out. And if he gets the award, he's very deserving of it."
Rooting for their comrade isn't enough, as other BlueClaws are doing their part to assist Astudillo's push for the batting crown.
"Everybody is really excited for him, the whole team," backstop Jose Mayorga said with a big grin. "We help with his hitting. If he's doing something bad, we try to catch it and make him adjust quickly to get hits."
Even the team's manager Greg Legg is thinking ahead, admitting that if Astudillo is leading by a solid margin on the final day of the season the skipper would remove his most consistent bat from the lineup, in order to prevent any risk of the batting average dropping.
"If it was a lock, yeah (I'd pull him), but I'd have to have a mathematician next to me," Legg said with a laugh. "And I may have no idea what Cisco did or anyone else that might be coming close. If he had a six point lead the last day and he went two-for-two, I think you'd pull him and say he got it, but we'll see what happens."
For the 22-year-old righty batter, who has been a multi-positional standout, spending time at first base, catcher and in left field, the support he has received from his club has meant a lot.
"I feel good because all my teammates are behind me and pushing me to win the title" Astudillo asserted. "They want me to win and it feels very good. It feels like a family and I'm trying to do my best to bring the batting title to the team."
Astudillo adds that his actual family back home has offered equal support from afar.
"My whole family is paying attention, watching the box scores. If they can see the games online, they are watching. But, all my family is cheering for me, trying all day to find out the box score and after each game they try to call me. It feels good to have the support of my family, my teammates, my managers, the coaches, everybody that's trying to help me," Astudillo stated.
This week, Astudillo, who is listed at five-foot-nine, 180 pounds, was named as a South Atlantic League postseason All-Star, based on a vote of the league's managers and coaches. He also represented the BlueClaws in the mid-season All-Star event back in June and his production has only improved since then.
In 61 games prior to the All-Star break, Astudillo tallied a .317/.344/.415 slash line. Since that time, in 53 contests, he's posted a .370/.405/.474 line.
The success hasn't changed his focus as Astudillo's approach has stayed the same. With four games remaining in the season, he wants to finish just as he's played throughout the year, but heading home with some shiny, new hardware is certainly on his mind.
"I just want to keep doing what I've been doing this season. I'm trying to keep working hard, finish strong and take that batting title back to Venezuela."
Jay Floyd created and writes the website PhoulBallz.com about area minor league clubs, like the Lakewood BlueClaws, from the inside. In the autumn of 2010 Jay began writing in a freelance capacity and joined PhilliesNation.com as a minor league contributor and is also a correspondent and panelist on the show of the same name.