Pigford supplies welcome power for Panthers
Uncommon bat speed allows Piedra Vista's Deylan Pigford to generate surprising results at the plate
- The 5-foot-10, 160-pound switch hitter blasted a two-run homer Thursday against Albuquerque Academy.
- Pigford favors the Phil Collins tune "In the Air Tonight" as his walk-up music for his at-bats.
- During his sophomore season, Pigford was a starter for the Panthers in right field.
FARMINGTON — Piedra Vista's Deylan Pigford tends to take opposing players, coaches and fans by surprise when he's at the plate.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, the junior switch hitter doesn't look like a player who brings much power to the lineup. But when Albuquerque Academy's Cameron Russell left a fastball on the inside part of the plate Thursday night, Pigford blasted it over the wall in right-center field at Ricketts Park for a two-run homer.
"I'm just trying to look for fastballs in the count. That's one thing coach (Mike) McGaha preaches to us," Pigford said. "I got a couple of balls, and was looking for a fastball on the inside part of the plate and just turned on it."
Last season, Pigford hit a nearly identical home run against crosstown rival Farmington. McGaha said Pigford's power at the plate is the result of his incredible bat speed.
"He probably has the best bat speed that I've seen in our lineup since Cody Scaggari (in 2012). When you talk about physical attributes, he's not a big kid, but he's always had a fast bat," McGaha said. "When you think about what he brings to the table, he hits from both sides of the plate, he hits for power and he can run. If his baseball IQ continues to grow like his physical ability has, he's going to have a chance to be a really good player down the road and outside of high school."
Possibly working in Pigford's favor is his selection of walk-up music. Unlike most his teammates, who have picked their favorite hip hop songs to accompany their walk to the plate — music selections that drive McGaha nuts — Pigford has the announcers play Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight." The song even prompted McGaha to turn back to the dugout when it played Thursday and say, "That's a great walk-up song."
This season is the second in a row Pigford has been starting for the Panthers in right field.
While the experience of playing at the varsity level has benefited Pigford from a skill point of view, both he and McGaha said the biggest benefits have come from experience in the dugout.
McGaha said the biggest advantage of Pigford's playing so much as a sophomore was that it allowed the player to get used to McGaha's personality and coaching style.
"Honestly, I think the experience of just being around me more helped. With my personality and my approach to the game, and I'm kind of sharp with my tongue, I think it takes some time for them to get used to that," McGaha said. "I think last year, one of the experiences he benefited from was just being around me and getting used to me."
Pigford said he spent a lot of last season soaking up the knowledge of the coaching staff and his older teammates, and this year's he's focused on sharing that knowledge and experience with teammates who are in the same situation he was a year ago.
"Those guys were such great role models for me, and so is coach McGaha and all of the coaching staff. I just try to be like them and lead by example," Pigford said. "I think the biggest thing for me now is being a good teammate to the younger guys and the guys who are new to the team. I want to give everyone a good experience and help everyone have a good time."
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.