Monday, August 21, 2006

Hilligoss Enjoying Life In New York, Rivalry With Cyclones

STATEN ISLAND, NY -Mitch Hilligoss continued to impress. The third baseman delivered a walkoff hit with the bases loaded to give the Baby Bombers a 2-1 extra inning victory over their Verrazano rivals the Cyclones Sunday at St. George.

His clutch hit staked the Bombers to a perfect four-game homestand and increased their McNamara Division lead to three games over Brooklyn.

"The rivalry is great," an excited Hilligoss expressed after his second walkoff hit against the Cyclones in 12 days. "The fans love it. It's a big league atmosphere when we play them. It's what I expected. New York Yankees and Mets games or Yankees and Red Sox games- you know the same calibre playing minor league baseball."

One of six Staten Island players to represent them at last Tuesday's All Star Game in Aberdeen, the former University of Purdue star has been one of the ballclub's best players this season. Selected in the sixth round of this past June's MLB Draft, the 21 year-old Windsor Illinois native has made a smooth transition from college to the pros.

After starting the year at shortstop, he's adjusted well to playing at the hot corner. While the versatile Hilligoss has played steady D all season, he's also swung a good bat for the Baby Bombers. Entering tonight's game at Brooklyn, he was hitting .318 with a home run and 31 RBI's. A solid line drive lefty hitter who can drive the ball into the gaps, he takes advantage of what pitchers give him.

Also very disciplined, he's drawn 22 walks to hike his on-base percentage to a team high .390. Also possessing good speed, he's a threat to run and has stolen eight bases while only being caught once.

That kind of overall game is what's helped him have success this summer. He's also enjoyed his first season under first-year skipper Gaylen Pitts.

"[Pitts] is a great guy," the offensive star of the AL's 4-1 recent win over the NL in the NY-Penn League All Star Game said. "He just tells us to go out and have fun and play baseball hard. The way it should be and we've responded and I think we've played well for him."

While he's enjoyed his time on the field, Hilligoss has also had fun off it when he and teammates have gotten a chance to check out New York.

"Actually, we go to Manhattan on our off days," he said. "Sometimes like tonight, we may go when we have time. It's a great place to visit. I don't know how much you want to live here with the people and stuff cause I'm from a small town but I love Manhattan. It's a great place."

While some of his teammates prefer another area, one spot in particular stands out for the first-year player.

"I really like Times Square," he noted. "A lot of the guys like Canal Street because you can get some cheap stuff there but I'm a big fan of Times Square."

If he continues to progress well at the minor league level, maybe one day Hilligoss will get to see a lot more of it in the future.

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