By David Krueger Herald Writer
EVERETT – No facial hair, no shorts.
After a 2-1 loss to Tri-City on July 4, Everett AquaSox manager Dave Valle instructed his players to shave their facial hair and informed them that they would be wearing pants for batting practice until further notice. The first-year manager said his team needs to earn back those privileges after a tough start to the season.
“You’ve got to earn it,” Valle said. “Those types of things are privileges and you have to earn privileges. They’re not entitlements. As long as I continue to see the effort I’ll reconsider it.”
Valle said other privileges may be revoked as well if the players don’t continue to work hard.
“Different things, different freedoms that they get to enjoy that can be taken away,” Valle said. “Just different things that we have within our ball club.
“… That’s how life is. Nobody gives you anything. You earn it. If you want to make it to the major leagues you’re going to get there because you deserve it and you earn it and you’ve put your work in. No one’s going to hand it to you.”
The AquaSox responded with a 11-5 victory over the Dust Devils on Sunday, before a 6-5 loss to Vancouver after an off day Tuesday. The players say they understand Valle’s rules, and believe in their manager’s approach.
“It is something that you want to earn back,” said first baseman/catcher Kyle Petty. “It’s nice coming to the ballpark and being casual but Dave’s a very professional guy — he wants to keep it professional. Even when we could have facial hair you had to be clean shaven and I think the guys are responding well to these rules. I think they’re going to work. I think they have worked so far.
“The guy was a big leaguer, he’s been in the game forever. You have to respect what he does.”
The facial hair ban affected some players more than others.
“Personally, I never had facial hair so when they had the ban nothing really negative happened to me. I didn’t lose a look,” said pitcher Sam Lindquist, who is from Mercer Island. “But I think the guys took it in stride. We realize that we’re losing a lot of close games and that part of it is frustrating. If that’s what it takes — to wear pants and shave our beards — then all the guys understood.”
Lindquist said the atmosphere in the clubhouse is incredibly positive as the team looks to make a second-half surge.
And earn some privileges back.
“It starts with earning back wearing shorts or earning back our facial hair,” Lindquist said. “… There’s a trickle-down effect. There’s a (feeling) that if you earn your beards, you have to earn that pitch. If you want the big things, you’ve got to do the little things right.”
With temperatures in the upper 70s, the players were relieved to find out they would be wearing shorts for batting practice Wednesday.
But they’re not sure how long that luxury will last.
“I wore my pants today to start and someone told me shorts, so I didn’t ask questions,” Lindquist said. “It is really, really hot. It’s definitely nice. We won on Sunday and we lost a close one last night but I think we’re still playing well.”
Offense coming around
Going into Wednesday’s game, the AquaSox past five losses — and 10 so far this season — have been by one run. However, Tuesday’s defeat saw the AquaSox get two home runs and put up five runs in a 6-5 defeat to Vancouver.
Valle believes that improved offense may be on the horizon for the AquaSox.
“Guys are having better at bats,” the AquaSox manager said. “We’re starting to hit with men in scoring position and score some runs. It feels good. Baseball’s a tough game. You show up every day. Some days you go (hitless), some days you go 4-for-4, it’s just about trying to stay consistent out there.”
Petty, who has three multi-hit games in his last five starts with three doubles, a home run and six RBI in that stretch, agrees the Frogs’ bats are starting to come around.
“I think guys are starting to get a little more comfortable at the plate,” Petty said. “Guys are just starting to get acclimated to this league a little better. I think our timing is getting a lot better and I think as a whole unit we’re coming together more as a team.”