The change was more mental than physical for Mike Tauchman.
And the results are hard to ignore for the 26-year-old Albuquerque Isotopes outfielder who, in his second season with the Colorado Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate, has shown for the first time in his five-year professional career consistent power at the plate.
And he credits the surge to adopting a simple message his manager, Glenallen Hill, has pushed for years.
“G-Hill talks a lot about having bad intentions in the batter’s box,” said Tauchman. “That’s kind of something he preaches to all of us about. So, there was a mechanical change (in Tauchman’s swing this past offseason), but there was a mindset change, as well.”
Tauchman was 2-for-8 at the plate on Saturday night as the Isotopes lost to visiting El Paso 13-10 in 14 innings in the longest game in Isotopes history (5 hours, 35 minutes). A postgame game firework show started at 12:45 a.m. Sunday for what was left of the announced Isotopes Park crowd of 10,071.
That had Tauchman hitting .315 for the season, which isn’t a huge surprise for the career .294 hitter.
What has started to change the big league prospects for the 2013 10th-round draft pick out of Bradley University has been the nine home runs he has hit this season for the ‘Topes after having hit a total of nine in his first four pro seasons.
“In the offseason, I worked with somebody new and I tried to clean up some of the inefficiencies in my swing to allow me to use my whole body,” Tauchman said. “Once I was able to do that and felt I was driving the ball easier, it became a change in intent.”
Tauchman said he has always had a comfort level at the plate, no matter the count. While that has helped him hit consistently at all levels (he has not hit below .286 in any of his first four professional seasons), it also took away any urgency to be aggressive early in the count.
That changed between last season and this one, when he took Hill’s message to heart and approached at bats with more urgency and aggression early in the count.
His nine home runs this season are third most for the Isotopes, and his 52 RBIs through 67 games are already a career high and more than the 51 he had in 127 games in 2016 with the ‘Topes.
And while it all points to why Tauchman has been dubbed by Hill the team’s MVP at times this season, it doesn’t exactly put him in position to break into the big leagues anytime soon. That, unfortunately for the hot-hitting Tauchman, is because the Rockies have a plethora of quality outfielders already in the majors.
Nevertheless, Tauchman isn’t about to start dwelling on the big league depth chart.
“I think that can have negative effects on your psyche,” Tauchman said. “The Rockies are a lot of games over .500. They’re playing really good ball. So, any help they get, they’re going to want players who play winning baseball.”
For the dogs
Last month, Tauchman and the ‘Topes took part in posing with animals for a baseball card set given out to fans at a past game that helped support Animal Humane New Mexico.
It also opened Tauchman’s eyes to the Watermelon Mountain Ranch no-kill animal shelter. He and his wife decided to volunteer as temporary fosters of animals in need.
“She’s a dog lover. … I like dogs, but I never had a dog as a pet growing up,” Tauchman said.
Just a month later, they are now a family of three as Kota, a 3½-year old Huskie mix who was found in southern New Mexico chained to bike he was dragging behind him, has moved in for good.
“He was pretty awesome,” Tauchman said. “I think after one or two days we were both kind of like, ‘Yeah, this dog’s not going back.’ I don’t really think of it as rescuing or anything. … He’s as good a dog as you can hope for.”
The Isotopes staff has been very accommodating to Kota, as well. He is a regular at the ballpark and a favorite of several of the kids of ‘Topes players.