As the Louisville Bats' bus rolled into Coca-Cola Field last week, Dave Sappelt recognized several landmarks from his childhood.
"I used to practice behind some of those factories," said Sappelt, who grew up on South Park Avenue. "I was pointing them out to the team and I said, 'I used to practice way back there.' "
Sappelt, a center fielder for Louisville, played Little League with the Lackawanna Boys Association until the age of 13 when his family moved to North Carolina so his father could work his roofing company year round.
"I had a batting cage in my house when I was younger and everything," Sappelt said. "But my father couldn't work here during the winter because of the snow so we moved. All of my family, except for my mother and my dad, lives here. My brothers live here, my grandparents, they're all here."
But Sappelt didn't get a chance to play in the Bats' four-game series against the Buffalo Bisons after going on the disabled list Friday (retroactive to Wednesday) with a left oblique strain.
"I was in the lineup the first day [Thursday] but I had a setback but it's nothing serious," said Sappelt, who coached first base during the series. "I definitely wanted to get this series in and play, but baseball throws you obstacles you don't expect sometimes."
The way Sappelt hit during spring training, it's more like a minor speed bump. He was one of the final cuts for the Reds after batting .564 with 22 hits in 39 at-bats. He hit three home runs with 12 RBIs.
The Reds are grooming him into the leadoff hitter role. With the Bats, Sappelt is batting .341 with four home runs in 23 games in the International League. His batting average ranks seventh in the league.
"I was feeling great and had a great spring training and carried it into the season," he said. "Everything was happening the way I envisioned it happening before the season. We were winning, we were on a roll and then all of the sudden I get hurt. I have to get back healthy so I can get back on the field and help this team out."
Herd outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis has now reached base in 30 of the Bisons' 31 games. The only game he failed to reach base was an 0-4 performance on April 27 in Rochester that ended a 16-game hit streak, which still stands as the IL's best this season.
Coming into Sunday's game Nieuwenhuis was also tied with two others for the league lead in doubles with 12 and his .425 on-base percentage is fifth-best.
"I'm just trying to stay consistent and make things happen for the team and put some runs across the board," said Nieuwenhuis, who went 1 for 4 in Sunday's 8-0 loss to the Bats.
Bisons pitchers did a good job taking out Louisville leadoff hitter Kristopher Negron in this series. Negron was 1 for 15 until an RBI double in the eighth inning. Starting pitchers Casey Fossum and Matt Maloney went 4 for 4 at the plate on Sunday. Maloney hit a double off the Bisons Justin Hampson in the sixth inning.