Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 2010



On the baseball diamond, speed has long been considered Lee Haydel’s best asset.

Fittingly, his ascent through the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league system has been a swift one.

The Riverside alumni has been promoted in each of his four pro seasons since being drafted in the 19th round of the 2006 Major League Baseball Amateur draft, and currently plays for the Double A Huntsville Stars in Alabama.

Haydel has played for the Single A Advanced Brevard County Manatees, the Single A West Virginia Power, and the Rookie League Helena Brewers.

His pace in each has been strikingly steady. He hit .295 with West Virginia, and has never hit less than .276. He’s stolen 34 and 39 bases in full seasons and 12 in a 62 game rookie ball campaign.

This season, he’s hitting .289 for Huntsville, with eight steals, 12 RBIs and 21 runs scored. His on-base percentage, if kept up, would be a career high at .352.

“So far, I’m pretty happy with how things are going,” said Haydel. “It could be better, but there are four months left. It’s baseball, and it’s a long season.”

That his numbers have remained steady, and even improved, is a testament to the work that Haydel has put into his game as a pro. That much is clear because, as Haydel says, the jump to Double A brings a sharp bump up in competition.

“Guys know how to pitch at this level,” said Haydel. “They can locate on both sides of the plate. They have command of their off-speed stuff. They’ve got three solid pitches.

“And at the plate, everyone makes more solid contact. The play is just more consistent overall.”

Those who followed Haydel at Riverside can’t be too surprised at his pro success. In 2006, he hit .473 and was a key cog for the Rebel baseball team that won the Class 2A state championship under then-coach Steve Stropolo. As he is in the pros, Haydel was a staple in center field for Riverside, an All-State performer who also played wide receiver on the football team and was a star sprinter on the track team.

In all sports, his speed was a prime asset. Coming out of Riverside, he was clocked at 6.39 seconds in the 60-yard dash.

It certainly supports his defensive play in center, and also on the bases — he has stolen 93 bases over his 352 minor league games.

While he’s maintained his base-stealing prowess from his days in Reserve, he’s had to make some adjustments.

“The higher up you get, the more you realize that you have a lot to learn,” said Haydel. “You’re learning which counts to run in, if he’s holding you, just little tweaks here and there.”

He says that not much has really surprised him through his minor league career, partially because he never had an idea of what to expect to begin with.

But one thing that has helped is that even through all of his travels so far — he hasn’t remained on the same team over two seasons yet — many of the same core guys he entered rookie ball with have been promoted right along with him.

“You see them every single day,” said Haydel. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of these guys real well.”

Of course, so is working toward a potential Major League career. Haydel still likely has another level, Triple A, to go before a potential call up to the Brewers, though some have made the jump straight from Double A.

But in the meantime, things aren’t so bad.

“It’s just the fact that I get to play baseball for a living,” Haydel said. “You have to love that.”