FRONT ROYAL — Trey Fields has always enjoyed the challenge of being a pitcher and a hitter and he’s brought that dual role to the Valley Baseball League.
The Front Royal Cardinal has enjoyed success in both roles this season and he said he’s glad Front Royal head coach Tony Hurla has allowed him to do both. Fields said it’s one of the reasons that he decided to come to Front Royal.
“Towards the end of my spring season I was looking for a league to come and play in and I was stuck between this and (the Prospect Collegiate Baseball League) in Indiana,” Fields said. “They weren’t going to let me hit or anything — just pitch. When I was told that I could come here and take ground balls and hit in batting practice and do all that and try to maybe earn a spot in the lineup or something in the field, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Fields, who has only been the designated hitter offensively, has been one of the Cardinals’ top hitters and has been solid on the mound.
Hurla said with Fields going both ways communication has been important.
“He does a good job with it,” Hurla said. “He communicates with me on when he needs rest. ...He handles it well. We’ve avoided playing him in the field — just DH and pitch — to keep the body fresh and to be able to handle that. There may be some situations where we may have to use him in the field as well.”
Fields said that he feels like doing both pitching and hitting help him when he’s at the plate and on the mound to know what opposing pitchers and hitters are thinking.
“When I’m hitting I know just what a pitcher would think in certain counts,” Fields said. “It definitely helps me. So if I step into the box and I’m down say 0-2 (in the count) I know most likely he’s not going to throw a pitch in the zone just because you want to get (the hitter to) chase. If the pitcher’s confident in his fastball or he has really good offspeed he might come right after you. But most of the time that’s not the case in an 0-2 count. He’s going to try to get you to chase because he has a few extra pitches to work with. But being able to take that mindset up to the plate really helps me kind of figure out what might be coming.”
Fields said he does tend to struggle with his hitting when he hits on the same day as he pitches, but other than that, he really enjoys being able to do both.
Hurla said that Fields has been a valuable addition to the Cardinals, especially offensively.
“He’s doing a really good job,” Hurla said. “He’s a switch hitter so he can match-up and he really does an equally good job from both sides of the pate. With runners on, he really does a good job of putting the ball in play. He’s really been a tough out in big situations for us this year.”
Fields is second on the team with a .324 (22-for-68) batting average. He leads the team with 13 RBIs.
“The main thing I try to do is see the ball as soon as I can,” Fields said. “I try to hunt fastballs. I want to hit the fastballs. I don’t want to hit the offspeed. But if I can see the pitch well I just try to react my best. I don’t try to pull a ball too much. I don’t try to hit for a ton of power or anything. I just try to get wood to the ball and put it in play. When you’re not putting it in play the defense doesn’t have to do anything. If you make something happen, it’s always better than not.”
He said he likes hitting better than pitching. Fields is also a switch hitter, and said he started switch hitting when he was really young and enjoys being able to hit from both sides of the plate.
The 5-foot-10 Fields is from Englewood, Florida and said he originally played college baseball at Florida Gulf Coast University but redshirted his freshman year and then decided to leave after that season. He transferred to South Florida State University, a junior college located in Avon Park, Florida.
Fields said he hit around .327 last season for South Florida State and won only a few games as a starting pitcher for a struggling Panthers’ squad.
Fields has pitched in seven games, including five starts for the Cardinals. He has pitched 25.1 innings with 26 strikeouts, one save, a 7.10 Earned Run Average and an 0-2 record. Fields said he got off to a slow start on the mound for the Cardinals this season, but said he feels like he’s gotten better with each game. He started out as a reliever for Front Royal but is now one of the team’s starters.
“As of late, I’ve been throwing a lot better,” Fields said. “I’ve been starting some more games, going further than I had been. I prefer to start. I feel like I’m in control that way.”
Being from Florida, Fields said he’s enjoyed the change of pace in the Shenandoah Valley.
“It’s vastly different from Florida,” Fields said. “I love the scenery, the mountains, the rivers. It’s a lot different than beaches and palm trees. It gets pretty warm here but it’s nothing like Florida right now. In my hometown I see kids posting on Snapchat in their stories that it’s up to 105 — just brutally hot.”
The Cardinals are 8-22 and are 12.5 games behind first-place Strasburg in the North Division. Front Royal is 4.5 games out of fourth place in the division. The top four teams in each division make the playoffs.
“We have a lot of fun,” Fields said. “Everybody gets along. Our record hasn’t been too hot. We can’t seem to put it all together. When we throw well then we won’t hit or we’ll hit well and then we won’t throw. Most everybody on our team gets along really well.”
Fields said one of his big goals for next season at South Florida State is to get looks from Division 1 schools. His biggest goal is to transfer to a Division 1 school after next season. He said that playing in the VBL has given him added confidence that he can pitch and hit at the Division I level.
“I need to really show what I can do and compete at this level, make sure I get some interest from other college coaches” Fields said. “I still want to (pitch and hit) because I know I can hit at this level. I know I can pitch. I hope somebody else sees that i can do both at this level.”