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Chace Numata finally getting a chance to start his career

June 22, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT

mrupert@sungazette.com

It took Chace Numata leaving Hawaii to start his professional baseball career to understand just what life in his home state is like.

He’s come to the mainland of the United State since being drafted in the 14th-round in the 2010 draft to find a lifestyle that is of a much faster pace than what he is used to. But it’s a pace of life the 19-year old enjoys.

“Everything is more up tempo here, especially playing baseball,” Numata said following batting practice at Bowman Field on Friday. “But I like it. I don’t want to just be laying down and relaxing on the beach and surfing.”

Yeah, that’d be a rough way of life.

Numata is finally getting the chance to truly start his professional baseball career, more than two years after he was drafted out of Pearl City High School. He played 31 games in the Gulf Coast League the summer he was drafted, but played just nine for the GCL Phillies last year after suffering a broken bone in his hand.

The switch-hitting catcher has already produced two hits – which ties the number he had in nine games in the GCL last year – an RBI and three runs scored in two games with the Williamsport Crosscutters. But more importantly than his offense, he’s made a connection with the Cutters’ pitching staff, something which he said was easy to do.

A staff that is dominated by college talent that was selected in the draft earlier this month already has a good idea of what they want to do as far as a gameplan goes. And that gameplan is generally the same thing that Numata wants to do.

“If anything, it was just getting used to their pitches,” Numata said. “The pitch calls are all the same and they have the same idea of what they wanted to do. So we’re all on the same page.

“In some way, every slider is different. Every pitcher has a different wind-up, or their mechanics are all different. I have to get used to seeing all those arms and legs flying at me.”

Numata is still learning how to play catcher. He was drafted as a high school shortstop and pitcher and scouting reports said his best shot as a professional might come as a pitcher.

At Pearl City H.S., he topped out at 94 mph as a closer, but generally sat with his fastball at 89-91, according to scouting reports. He showed off that arm Monday night with a runner on first with a beautiful snap throw to first base. At this point, Numata is relying on his arm strength to carry him. He’s an athletic catcher with a quick release when throwing to the bases.

“Throwing to first was a lot harder to learn than throwing to second,” Numata said. “They convert a lot of middle infielders to catchers, so throwing to second was fine. Everything is going to take a lot of practice, especially the snap throws.”

Numata missed much of last season after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand during spring training. It was an injury he actually played with through spring training and part of extended spring training, thinking it was just a sore wrist.

When he finally was taken to have the injury checked out, doctors told him they hoped it wasn’t a hamate bone injury. He asked what the hamate bone was.

It’s actually an injury that is quite common among baseball players and some have even had the bone removed from their hand.

“I didn’t even know it was a bone that could break until I got my X-rays done,” Numata said. “Sure enough it was the hamate bone that was cracked and I got it fixed. It was actually a short procedure and I was back on the field in a few months.”

Numata did get to play nine games last year in the GCL, going 2-for-13 with a pair of singles. In fact, in his 68 plate appearances prior to the start of this season, Numata had just one extra-base hit in his short career.

He doubled that total with a second-inning double in the Cutters’ 13-1 win over State College on Wednesday. But he’s not built like the two other catchers on the roster – Logan Moore and Kevin Quaranto. He’s not even built like Bob Stumpo, Jeff Lanning and Cameron Rupp, catchers who have played for Williamsport in the past two years who looked better suited to play linebacker than catcher.

At 6-feet, 175-pounds, Numata is a line-drive hitter. He’s a gap hitter with better than average speed and a high contact rate. He struck out 12 times in the first 31 games of his career, but hasn’t struck out since.

“They’re bigger people, and they’re a lot stronger, too,” Numata said. “I have to use my quickness behind the plate. I just have to use my arm. That’s what got me here.”

 
 

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