FAYETTEVILLE — Casey Martin vows slowing the speed adorning him most everyone’s 2020 preseason All-American.
Incredible foot speed, bat speed, speed throwing upon fielding – they all put Arkansas’ junior infielder from Lonoke on first or second teams on the various college baseball preseason All-American teams upon helping coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks reach the College World Series in 2018 and 2019.
But other than pure foot speed running the bases or zooming into the outfield from shortstop to snag would be Texas League bloop singles, Martin seeks slowing his game down.
Haste makes waste, Martin concurs of the old adage.
Rushing throws contributed to his committing 23 errors as a 2019 sophomore shortstop versus 15 as a 2018 freshman third baseman.
Martin’s right-handed bat speed slightly upped his power totals to 19 doubles, three triples, 15 home runs in 2019 versus 14, 0, 13 and 49 for 2018, but his batting average dropped from .345 to .287 and his strikeouts rose from 64 to 71.
In moving back to short, his high school position at Lonoke, it seemed Martin sometimes was penalized for incredible range.
He could get to balls others couldn’t but then be charged with a throwing error trying to make a play from a difficult spot.
Yeah, that might have happened some but not enough to be excused, Martin asserts.
“I think most of the errors came from just trying to speed it up, too much,” Martin said. “What causes that? The mental clock in my head is just ‘go, go, go, play fast.’ Sometimes in this league you have to slow it down and not just, go, go, go! Even in the (batter’s) box, just slowing that clock down and knowing the counts and the pitches I’m going to get.”
His bat speed, so vital hitting the heat in the fast balling SEC, worked against him overaggressively swinging against the breaking balls and changeup those same hard throwing pitchers would work off speed.
“Oh, yeah,” Martin said of the curves and junk pitchers threw to get him out. “That was last year. Just pitch recognition and that just goes back to slowing it down and knowing what counts I’m going to get these pitches. Just be a little more patient. When I see a fastball, I almost get too anxious but I don’t see too many of those anymore.”
Even with all the quickness needed to turn double plays, Martin said he said he’s learned getting it right beats getting it fast.
“Just slowing it down, the footwork, and my arm slot,” Martin said. “Slowing it down in the (batter’s) box. I stand up a little higher, don’t squat down as low, not as a high leg kick anymore. I’ve been better this past fall at hitting the ball to all fields instead of just pulling it. So I’ve been building on that a little bit and just going with it.”
Breaking his left hand during fall ball interrupted his workouts but gave him all the more time to reflect on slowing his game down.
How well is the hand healing, Martin was asked during the Jan. 31 baseball Media Day heading into this Friday through Sunday season opening series against Eastern Illinois at Baum-Walker Stadium.
“It took a little bit longer than I expected but it’s good now,” Martin said. “October 7 is when I had surgery. I missed the last two months of intrasquad. I’ll be ready when Feb. 14 rolls around. I just had to take time off because it hurt swinging but it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Martin says reevaluating the pace of his game enables him better to advise Robert Moore, the aged 17 freshman phenom just graduated from high school enrolled January at the UA and already set to start at second base.
“He’s still young, only 17, but he’s been getting it,” Martin said. “I think he’s beginning to understand the maturity it takes to play with these guys. He’s very talented and if he slows the game down and remembers what brought him here he will be good.”
Martin had fall ball as a base when he crashed the Razorbacks starting lineup as the 2018 freshman third baseman.
So he could empathize with Moore coming straight out of high school in January joining a team off successive College World Series trip to Omaha.
“I told him, ‘Don’t be nervous,’ ” Martin said. “We all want the same thing to win a national championship and we all want to get drafted and make as much money as we can, but first we have a team to build. I assured him we are all going to take him in with open arms. He fit right in with the work ethic he has.”
Thanks to Van Horn, Martin said achieving another CWS venture to Omaha is a back-in-the-mind subconscious goal rather than a daily pressure cooker.
“He’ll mention it a couple of times just so we know what we’re here for and then after that it’s just get to work,” Martin said. “I like how he does it because a lot of coaches will preach, preach, preach on a national championship. We all know that’s why we come here and play. I think it’s cool he lets us chill out on that because that adds a lot of pressure, especially young guys here stepping into big roles. You don’t need to put any unneeded stress, especially a guy like Moore. So what he does not mentioning it is really good for us.”
Speaking of pressure, how does Martin cope not getting ahead of himself knowing this is his Major League draft eligible junior year?
“I’m really not looking into preseason stuff,” Martin said. “No polls where they have us picked or where they think I’m going to be drafted. I’m not really worried about that. I’m just going out and play my game and let it play out the way it should.”