Strait looks ahead with Lookouts
By: David Paschall
The most frightening moment for the Chattanooga Lookouts last season occurred May 20 at AT&T Field, when right fielder Cody Strait foul tipped a ball into his right eye and fractured his orbital socket.
“That’s the first time I had ever seen something like that,” Lookouts hitting coach Jamie Dismuke said. “It was scary.”
Strait will be back in right field and back at the plate tonight at AT&T when the Lookouts host Chattanooga State in the third annual exhibition game between the two. The 24-year-old from Sour Lake, Texas, was on the disabled list for two weeks following the accident and was then sent down to high Single-A Sarasota, where he finished out the season.
In 58 games with the Lookouts, Strait hit just .216, but he was improving at the time of his mishap and left with a share of the team lead in home runs with seven.
“I don’t know if there is ever a really good time for an injury like that to happen,” Strait said. “I did get off to a slow start and there was a lot of ball to be played, so it is kind of hard to tell what would have happened. I feel good now, so that’s what counts.
“After I got hurt, I kept struggling for a while, but I had a good last month and feel strong and healthy and ready to go.”
Strait hit .241 in 69 games with Sarasota, which failed to match the .258 he hit in 131 games there in 2006. There were some bright spots last year, however, as he wound up with 26 stolen bases, ranking second among all Cincinnati Reds minor leaguers, and was labeled with the best outfield arm in the organization by Baseball America.
After taking a long break during the offseason, Strait said he doesn’t think about the injury anymore. Dismuke also believes any lingering effects are over for the right-handed hitter.
“Cody is not scared,” Dismuke said. “He’s digging in there and taking it like a champ like nothing went on, and that was the part I was scared of. I thought he might be a little tentative, but he’s shown no effects of it at all.”
When Strait takes the field this season, he will be looking at the backs of first baseman Tonys Gutierrez and second baseman Drew Anderson. Those were the same players he played behind in Chattanooga last season, which brings a nice sense of familiarity.
If he can just play out a script this season that doesn’t include any misfortune.
“You never want to see anybody get hurt in any kind of way, and I think that set him back,” Dismuke said. “Hopefully, we can look for bigger and better things from him this year. If he can put it together, he has some serious thump in his bat. Hopefully he can go out there and show everybody he’s not just a tools guy.”
Said Strait: “I just lost a year is basically how I’m looking at it, so now I’m right back where I started in ’07. I’m ready to go.”
E-mail David Paschall at email@example.com