Hooks infielder Shay Whitcomb knows a thing or two about being patient after being the final pick of the 2020 MLB Draft when the Astros selected him 160th overall in the fifth round.
Now, Whitcomb is in his second season with the Hooks and is waiting for his chance to earn a promotion to Triple-A and one day, the big leagues.
"It would be really special and a huge blessing," Whitcomb said. "I think that it's easy to get caught up with looking ahead so that's one of the challenges with baseball in general. Being strong mentally, being able to be in the moment and have that desire to win at this level and perfecting my game is what's going to get me to the next level."
Whitcomb is in his third minor league season and is off to his best start since joining the Single-A Asheville Tourists in 2021.
Whitcomb currently leads the Double-A Hooks in hits (37), home runs (9); doubles (12); RBI (29) and games played (39).
"It comes down to the staff that we have," Whitcomb said of his success in 2023. "Being able to give us what we need, whether it's in the weight room or on the field. Working on fine-tuning things in terms of hitting and in the cages or in the gym weight lifting. That's really helped me stay ready to be able to perform when the opportunity arises."
Whitcomb can play anywhere on the infield but his primary positions this season have been shortstop and second base.
The Astros have shown in recent years that infielders with success in Corpus Christi have received an opportunity to play in the big leagues. David Hensley, who played on the infield for Corpus Christi in 2021, found his way to the Astros' roster as a utility player and was key in the club's run to the World Series title last season.
Whitcomb, who went to college at the University of California San Diego, said Houston has done a good job allowing players to be versatile.
"I am not sure what they would have in mind but what they have done well," Whitcomb said of the Astros ability to develop players. "In Hensley's case, they used him in different ways and that's what got him to the show. That's why you see a lot of infielders moving around so if the opportunity arises, we can fill in those positions and play them well. That's a credit to the Astros' staff."
The Hooks have a handful of players from last season's squad, but Whitcomb leads the way in terms of experience after playing in 118 games in 2022.
Whitcomb said getting to meet more players in the organization during spring training and serving as a mentor to the younger players has also been beneficial to his success.
"We have a great group of guys here," Whitcomb said. "It's been fun to see them come through and see them play. For some of them, it's the first time I have been able to watch them play and it's cool to see the talent that we have."
Whitcomb hopes to be the next "big-time" player to make his way from Corpus Christi to Houston and is inspired to do so every time he walks in the clubhouse at Whataburger Field.
"Walking in and you see their pictures on the walls, I was asking them (Jose Altuve and Chas McCormick) when they were here during their rebab starts about what's changed since they were here and is this how they remember it. It's cool to relate their experience to mine. It's obtainable," Whitcomb said.
"We have a great group of guys and staff and being able to work with them and fine-tuning our game has given me the ability to succeed and hopefully the work we put in and time and effort will be enough to help us get to the next level. Hopefully not just me but my teammates as well who are getting those calls up."
Whitcomb is not shy about his faith and said he relies on it each time he takes the field.
His faith has helped carry him through his early playing days at UCSD when he was named CCAA Player of the Year in 2019 after hitting .314 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI. It carried him last season when he hit 19 home runs and drove in 60 runs in his first season with the Hooks and plans on using it to guide him into one day as a major league baseball player.
"I'm a big believer in getting your work in everyday and having that balance between the physical and mental side," Whitcomb said. "I'm a Christian so my mental strength is built through the Lord and my experience with that paired with getting in the gym, working with the coaches and manager Joe Thon, will help me put things together. I think that's going to give me the tools to get me there."
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Hooks' Shay Whitcomb breaking out in second season with Hooks