AVON — To say Wadsworth graduate Drew Saylor has settled in with the Lake Erie Crushers would be an understatement.
Saylor, a former Gazette MVP while playing for the Grizzlies, has emerged as one of the leaders for the expansion Frontier League franchise based out of Avon.
The 25-year-old has started almost every game at second base and is staking a permanent claim for the No. 2 spot in manager John Massarelli’s batting order.
“That’s one of the things the guys on the team have been saying,” Saylor said. “When the chips are down, when they need a good at-bat or need a guy to pick it up in a key situation, they look to me. I take that to heart.
“I like being the go-to guy. I think that’s what I’m supposed to do when I’m done playing is take a manager’s position or a head coaches position and lead the guys that I choose into battle.”
It’s been a winding baseball road for Saylor, who went from first-team All-Mid-American Conference as a senior at Kent State University to being drafted in the 13th round by the Florida Marlins.
Two seasons and two organizations later, Saylor found himself in the Frontier League playing second base for the Chillicothe Paints. When the Paints folded, he became a member of the Crushers.
“I think the biggest thing for me is just understanding the type of player I am,” Saylor said.
“When I first got drafted, I saw myself as a power hitter instead of being gap-to-gap with occasional power. I think that’s just part of maturing, and that’s how the guys in the big leagues get to the big leagues. They understand what type of player they are and they hone that in and figure that out, day in and day out.
“That’s my goal this year. I figured out what type of player I am. Now, I’ve got to stay within my parameters and do my job. I think that’s the reason why I’m having the sustained success so far throughout the first half of the season because I’ve been able to do that.”
Through Sunday, Saylor was batting .302 (70-for-232) with a team-leading 16 doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 49 RBIs. He has scored 48 runs, has a .359 on-base percentage and a .483 slugging percentage.
In the field, he has committed five errors, which is tied for third on the team. His average is fifth on the team, his RBIs, runs and walks (21) are third.
“Just the way that I’ve been approaching my regular routine and starting in the dog days of summer, all the extra work that I’ve put in is really starting to pay off,” Saylor said.
“The biggest thing is this game has a lot of ups and downs. It’s not getting down when it’s a little low and high when it’s a little up. You’ve got to stay even-keeled, and I think that’s one of the things I’ve been trying to do better for myself this year — staying even-keeled.
“I think that’s really been paying off, not just with wins for us but also for me personally. I haven’t been getting too low (or) getting too high when things are going good or bad.”
Saylor put some extra work in during the offseason, as he transitioned from the Paints to the Crushers.
“I just tried to focus in on a couple of things, like taking 10 at-bats at a time,” Saylor said. “If I take it 10 at-bats at a time and I get three hits, that’s batting .300 and I can do what I want to do. So far, that’s what I’ve been doing. The more I’m able to segment it down in my mind that makes it much easier to digest and to be able to sustain that approach throughout the season.”
Saylor has been very happy to wind up with the Crushers this season. Through Sunday, Lake Erie was 32-25 and is second in the East Division, 3½ games behind Kalamazoo.
“Being here is amazing,” he said. “Being an hour and 15 minutes away from home and having my family come up every night to see me play, it gives me just that nice comfort zone. I know when I come to the ballpark; I’m going to have people there to back me up.
“A lot of people from where I work in Wadsworth, my friends and stuff, they also come up to see me play. You just have that support system that’s around you. That gives you that relaxation and easy feeling, that hominess that I’ve been searching for.”
Saylor is still aiming for one more shot at affiliated baseball.
“That’s the reason why all of us are here,” he said. “We want to prove those organization’s wrong that either didn’t take a chance on us or did take a chance on us but never gave us a full opportunity. That’s the reason why I’m here — I want to get to the big leagues.
“I see myself playing as long as I possibly can. Whenever the good Lord says it’s time for me to step away from the game, I hope that I’m still involved in coaching or some other aspect of this game because I feel that I’m able to be a natural leader.”
Contact Dan Gilles at firstname.lastname@example.org.