Almost-Buckeye Eric Haase Provides Some Consistency for Struggling Captains
Laurel Wilder | On 18, Apr 2013
Before he was drafted by the Indians in the seventh round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Eric Haase had made a decision that will shock Ohioans – the Michigan native from right outside Ann Arbor had committed to playing baseball at the Ohio State University.
“I know almost half the baseball team at Michigan,” Haase said of his almost-traitorous departure. “That would have been a rough Big Ten match-up there.” Haase said that Michigan had recruited him “a little bit,” but OSU had, “a good staff put together, so I thought that would be a better choice for me.”
Instead of alienating himself, though, and becoming an unheard of Wolverine in a sea of Buckeyes, the 5-foot, 10-inch, 180-pound Haase found himself headed for Arizona to catch for the Indians Arizona League.
The move to Arizona was not without the lingering memories of the Ohio State recruiting. Haase was a third baseman throughout his high school years, only moving to catcher because Ohio State was looking for someone behind the plate. He was recruited as a catcher and infielder, ready to do whatever the team needed. When the draft came, however, the Indians decided to keep Haase in the catcher’s gear. He has only completed one full season solely as a catcher.
His experience as an infielder is apparent when Haase gets on base; he does not run like a traditional catcher, and easily earns triples on hits that may have other catchers struggling for a double.
Passing up Ohio State for Cleveland Indians baseball does not seem to be a bad decision for Haase. Although he has not yet had extensive opportunities to perform, Haase has shown promise when on the field.
In his first season in 2011, Haase played four games and earned three hits and two RBIs in 10 at bats. He posted a .300 batting average in the Arizona League.
In 2012, Haase spent most of the season back in AZL. He played 28 games in Arizona with 29 hits, 22 RBIs and three home runs. His average with Arizona in 2012 was .282. He was moved up from the Arizona League to play with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers later in 2012, where he ended the season.
With the Scrappers, Haase played only three games. In those games, he had one hit, giving him an average of .091. While not an incredibly impressive number by any means, Haase showed enough promise while in Mahoning Valley to start this season in Lake County.
While it may be nerve-wracking for a player to jump from only playing three games with their last team to starting and playing regularly with a brand new group of players, Haase said he didn’t have too many beginning of the season nerves.
“It’s a good group of guys, I’m comfortable on the field. I get a good vibe from all of them. Not too many nerves, really,” Haase said. “I know I haven’t played a full season with some of these guys [especially pitchers], but you have the fall league and spring training and coming down here early, working with them and getting a good feel and balance…I love the coaching staff here.”
His only complaint about the beginning of the season seems to come from the weather in Ohio. “It’s hot as heck down there [in Arizona],” Haase said. “It’s a little chilly up here.”
“It’s more of a learning experience,” Haase said of the transition to Lake County. “Arizona is just about development, it’s a complex league so I wasn’t really playing every day but it was a lot of good one-on-one time with coaches. It’s definitely a good stepping stone.”
So far this season, Haase has been a valuable player to the Captains’ struggling roster. On Opening Day, Haase hit a triple in his third trip to the plate and earned an RBI. In his first two at-bats, he grounded out to second and hit a hard fly ball to left that was caught by Ronnie Melendez, the left fielder for the Lansing Lugnuts.
“I hit a couple balls hard,” Haase said of his plate appearances on April 4. “It’s baseball – hit ’em right at people and can’t do [anything] about it. Then, I finally got one in.”
His hit helped earn the Captains a 5-4 over Lansing.
In a team riddled with errors so far this season, Haase has only had one, a throwing error during the fourth game of the season.
The Captains (3-7) have struggled this season in other areas in which Haase has excelled. As a team, the Captains are hitting .230; Haase is hitting .250, making him one of the stronger hitters on the team. In 36 at bats so far this season, Haase has nine hits, four doubles and one triple. He has four RBIs on the season, was walked once and fanned nine times.
When looking at the team’s overall numbers, Haase stacks up as one of the most vital parts of their lineup. The team posts 73 hits, 15 doubles, four triples, 31 RBIs, 37 walks and 90 strikeouts. In terms of hits, the Captains currently come in at second-last in the Midwest League. The Dayton Dragons trail them with 64 hits – which is where the Captains would be without Haase’s nine hits.
“He had a great spring,” Captains manager Scooter Tucker said of Haase after the first game. “He swings a bat pretty well. We think he can be a solid number five hitter. His first two at bats, he hit the ball hard. He looked pretty comfortable at the plate.”
As the season continues, it’s solid performances like those of Haase that will continue to propel the team to success. While not every game will be perfect, it’s the consistency he has shown both behind and at the plate that will keep his numbers above the averages.
“I hope for the best,” Haase said of his thoughts on the season. “Not too many highs, not too many lows; I just take it as it comes.”
Photo: Jesse Piecuch/DTTWLN photographer