The most impressive clutch hit in Danny Worth’s career was witnessed by many of his family who traveled as far as Washington to see the Fresno Grizzlies utility player play.
Except his wife and child, who left in the middle of Saturday’s game with Worth on the bench for most of the night.
But upon entering the game as a late substitution, Worth proved it was worth staying until the very end.
With two outs, the bases loaded and the game tied in the ninth, Worth launched a walk-off grand slam beyond the center-field wall that propelled the Grizzlies to an 8-4 victory over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
“It was great,” Worth said. “Had a lot of family there who I mostly only see during some holidays. My kid was getting tired so my wife took them back home a little early. It’s OK. I’m sure I’ll tell her all about it. It was exciting.
“Was just trying to get a hit and win the game somehow. He gave me a fastball and I put a good swing on it.”
Though Worth’s wife might’ve missed out on his grand finale, the Grizzlies coaching staff certainly have noticed Worth’s steady production and improved power stroke.
Worth ranks fifth in the Pacific Coast League with a .353 average – the only Grizzlies player hitting above .300 for the season.
And he’s hit seven home runs, two of which were grand slams, along with collecting 30 RBIs.
Prior to this season, Worth never had hit more than eight home runs in a season in his 10-year professional career and tallied just six homers in 106 games last season.
Worth, 30, says he’s tinkered with his swing each season in hopes of making improvements.
Grizzlies hitting coach Ralph Dickenson noted Worth’s improved transfer of power through his hips while staying behind the ball.
“He’s loading his hips,” Dickenson said. “That’s something we’re big on in this organization. Your hips are your power source. If you can load your hips and be in position to be behind the ball, that gets your bat on the same angle of the pitch and kind of helps you elevate the ball.
“You hit it with authority. He’s been working on this since spring training and it’s working out.”
Perhaps even more than his hitting, the Grizzlies coaching staff praised Worth for his professionalism and preparation.
Like Saturday, leading into his late-game heroics.
Though Worth did not start, he spent much of the game taking swings off a tee in the batting cage located down the tunnel from the Grizzlies dugout.
“I was feeling a little rusty the past couple of days,” Worth said, “and I was trying to figure things out.”
Upon hitting the grand slam and returning to the dugout, Worth told teammates and coaches: “That was 250 swings worth right there.”
“He’s a true professional,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “He comes to work every day. He’s the veteran in the clubhouse. He can do it all. He knows how to get ready for ball games. He’s been our most consistent player.”
Dickensen added that Worth’s pregame routine is the ideal model way of preparation.
A second-round pick out of Pepperdine in 2007, Worth is no longer considered a prospect and finds himself on the opposite side of 27 years old, which some consider to be the peak age of baseball performance.
But he still believes he has a chance to reach the majors again and likes to prepare as if he’s in the majors. Worth, who signed a minor league deal with the Houston Astros in the offseason, has played in 133 major league games with 261 at-bats.
“He shows up three hours before a game and does a lot of work to get himself prepared,” Dickenson said. “He goes in the batting cage and takes more swings than anybody else. He’s out on the field earlier than anybody else.
“His attention span is top notch. He gives a quality at-bat time after time. He’s just a consistent, professional performer. If you’re going to model your actions on the way that you want to go about your preparations for the game, he’d be the guy to copy.”
Danny Worth file
FRESNO GRIZZLIES UTILITY PLAYER
- Age: 30
- Bats/throws: Right/right
- Draft: 2007 second-round pick out of Pepperdine by the Detroit Tigers
- With the Astros: Signed a minor-league deal with Houston in the offseason
- Stats: Batting .353 with seven homers, 30 RBIs, with a .444 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage