By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Dawel Lugo takes to heart the Bluefield Blue Jays’ catch phrase for this year, “a sense of urgency.”
The 6-foot shortstop from the Dominican Republic has given what press-box denizens call “extraordinary effort” on both defense and offense to help the Jays one of the best win-loss records in the Appalachian League this summer.
Lugo said about the message behind the slogan, “It helps me hustle and work hard.”
Of course, desire is not enough in professional baseball. That’s where his natural ability comes in. His short, powerful swing at the plate connects bat to ball often, usually with a crowd-pleasing pop, launching the ball at high velocity.
Prior to Monday’s game, Lugo was batting .288 with 38 hits in 35 games — and 13 extra-base hits.
He leads the league in runs batted in with 27, batting .328 with runners on base. His five home runs put him in a tie with Princeton’s Travis Flores for second-most in the Appy League this season.
In the fifth inning on Sunday, with Bluefield already ahead of Princeton 6-0, the Rays’ Coty Blanchard smacked a grounder across the mound and over second base.
Lugo, playing shortstop, showed the initiative to launch himself horizontally at the ball, at the back edge of the infield dirt, to make the stop. He didn’t reach the baseball, but it was the kind of effort that goes into player-development reports to Toronto.
His father Ursino Lugo was a Cleveland Indians prospect and played for Burlington in the Appalachian League in 1995 and 1997. His uncle reached the Class AA level in the Montreal Expos farm system.
Their advice to the newest pro in the family was to “work hard, always focus, and take this job very seriously,” Dawel Lugo said with the assistance of interpreter and teammate Francisco Gracesqui.
In his three months in 2012 spring training, he said he learned “the fundamentals. I learned everything there.”
Asked about playing in the Toronto system, he said, “I like the organization. The coaches are helping me progress, and stuff.”
He was assigned to the Blue Jays’ Gulf Coast League team last year, where he batted .224 with nine extra-base hits among his 38 safeties, plus five stolen bases. He struck out 25 times and earned seven walks.
This year with Bluefield, he said, “I feel more comfortable. Last year was my first year in pro ball. I didn’t really feel comfortable at all. Now I’m feeling it. I’m getting more consistent.”
“The pitching here is better than the lower levels. It’s harder,” he said. “In fastball counts, they throw off-speed a lot of times.”
He likes his situation in Bluefield, he said, because “I get a lot of opportunities, and because of that I get better every day.”
Pitchers and managers at the next level of baseball should consider that a warning.
— Contact Tom Bone at email@example.com