Wichita State shortstop Tyler Grimes got hit by a pitch 23 times last season, a school record. That was his 2010 strategy for getting on base.
In 2011, Grimes wants to make contact with his bat instead of his shoulder. He is off to a good start after hitting .400 in seven fall series games and .327 in 14 series and scrimmage games with the new bats mandated by the NCAA.
After a frustrating sophomore season, Grimes went back to his batting stance from high school at North. He thinks the change helped him cut down on strikeouts and use more of the field.
"It went how I wanted it to go," Grimes said. "Being able to cover the plate a lot more and take the ball the other way is a lot more helpful than you think."
Never miss a local story.
Grimes, after hitting .249 as a sophomore, changed his batting stance while playing in the Alaska Baseball League. He stood up straighter and moved off the plate, all with the approval of coaches.
"I was kind of stubborn and still wanted to pull the ball," Grimes said. "I used to swing at a lot of curveballs down and changeups down and I'm starting to read those a lot better."
Grimes went 12 for 30 with three doubles and a team-leading nine RBIs in the seven fall series games. He led WSU with a .500 slugging percentage. He walked and struck out three times, helping him compile a .455 on-base percentage.
"I saw a much-improved offensive player," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "He consistently put the ball in play to all fields. He was getting on base and being a guy who could drive runners home."
Grimes batted leadoff through much of May for WSU last season. Stephenson sees him as a No. 3 hitter after this fall.
"If I could have him in both spots, I'd be happy," Stephenson said.
Staff discussion — Lefty Brian Flynn did what everyone expected by striking out a lot of batters and dominating this fall.
Coaches can use the winter to decide how to use him this spring. Stephenson sees him as a starter. Pitching coach Brent Kemnitz sees a reliever who can bounce back quickly and be used in long or short situations.
"This is where Brent and I have a little difference of opinion," Stephenson said. "He's capable of doing either one, and doing it well."
Kemnitz feels good about a weekend rotation of senior Tim Kelley with juniors Charlie Lowell and Josh Smith. For Flynn to move to the bullpen, others need to claim jobs as No. 4 and No. 5 starters. The candidates are sophomores Tobin Mateychick and T.J McGreevy, and freshman Albert Minnis.
Minnis, from Lawrence, got better as the fall progressed and finished with a 1.93 ERA over his final 18 2/3 innings. Kemnitz got him to make a few adjustments, most noticeably easing up and not trying to throw the ball as hard as possible.
"He seemed to think he had to be grunting and moaning with every pitch," Kemnitz said. "Now it's coming a lot easier for him."
Regardless of how Flynn is used, his coaches are thrilled with his recovery from last season's academic ineligibility.
"In one year, he's matured so much he's a different man," Stephenson said. "I expect him to have a great year."
Meet the new bats — WSU played eight games before its shipment of the new NCAA-approved bats arrived. The new bats perform more like wood, and the stats prove it.
In the first eight games, WSU hit .289 with 68 extra-base hits. In the final 14, with new bats, the Shockers hit .252 with 53 extra-base hits.
Remembering Slim — Leonard Dominique, step-brother of 1960s-era WSU basketball player Ron Washington, isn't sure how big a crowd to expect for Washington's memorial service.
He is sure people will tell interesting stories.
"If 50 people show up, half of them will be from the FBI," Dominique said, chuckling at memories of a turbulent time on campus and Washington's prominent role in protests.
The service will be held from 9:30-11 a.m. Saturday at Grace Memorial Chapel on campus. Washington, 64, died Aug. 22. Services were held in Irvington, N.J.
Washington described himself as a revolutionary student and worker activist in the 1960s. He said he founded the Black Student Union at WSU and the first black student newspaper, leading to a lifetime of activism.
Washington, Dominique said, valued his time at WSU, even if it didn't always seem that way. Dominique, who lives in Wichita, said Washington mellowed later in life and became less confrontational. He still held strong views on the subjects of race and equality. His strategies for expressing those views changed.
"Life teaches you, if you pay any attention, how things go and the best way to go about how to reach your goals," Dominique said. "You can learn from an adversary, if you don't have an absolutely closed mind."
Washington, a 6-foot-6 forward, scored 1,013 points in four injury-shortened seasons from 1965-69. Known as "Slim," Washington ranks as one of WSU's best shooters. He led the 1968 team with a 19.3 scoring average.
Tee off at home — The WSU women's golf team will play in the Shocker Invitational on Monday and Tuesday at Sand Creek Station in Newton.
The shotgun start is at 8:30 a.m. each day. The eight-team field includes Newman, Northern Colorado, North Dakota, Cal Poly, Eastern Washington, Upper Iowa and Utah Valley State.
WSU finished second last fall in the Shocker Invitational.