When he walked through the clubhouse door on Wednesday, he was the first player there.
That’s nothing new.
Buffalo Bisons infielder Jim Negrych is usually the first to arrive at the ballpark, often six hours before the first pitch. His car can look lonely in the parking lot.
And sometimes coming to the ballpark early provides a little extra excitement.
When arrived at Coca-Cola Field on Wednesday, there were some important instructions waiting for him – his packet of information for the Triple-A All-Star Game.
Negrych was named the starter at second base for the International League team when it meets the Pacific Coast League on July 17 in Reno, Nev. He will be joined by fellow Bison Mauro Gomez, who was elected as a designated hitter.
It’s the second straight year that Negrych will be on the IL’s All-Star team. Last year he was selected as a reserve just a few days before the game and had the opportunity to join in the festivities of All-Star Weekend at Coca-Cola Field. That was pretty special for the Buffalo native and St. Francis graduate.
This year, he was elected as a starter and will travel to Nevada wearing the name of his hometown across his chest. And that’s just another level of awesomeness.
“It’s an honor to be selected to the All-Star team. It’s always an honor no matter how you spin it,” Negrych said. “To be selected as one of the top performers for the first half in the league you’re playing at is an honor.
“Last year was obviously extremely exciting. I was coming home. But last year I was a reserve. I didn’t make it right off the bat.
“This time is different. … To go in and be the starter at second base is an exclamation point to the first half of the season.”
And what a first half Negrych had. He batted .429 in April and carried a .400 batting average through May 17. He dipped in May, hitting .310, then dipped further in June, batting .284.
Still, Negrych – who went 2 for 3 Wednesday night in Buffalo’s 11-1 loss to Rochester – has the third-best batting average in the International League at .331 (84 of 254). And that figure isn’t of particular concern to the 28-year-old.
“It’s a long season and my first month was so hot that basically no matter what I do it’s going to be kind of a downer or a disappointment after that,” he said. “But it is what it is. I can’t go back and change the way I hit in the month of June.”
“Batting average is one of the more overrated stats in the game. It looks good and it might make you feel good but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being productive when you need to be.”
The batting average dip created no concern for Bisons manager Marty Brown. He sees Negrych making adjustments at the plate to help boost the team offensively.
“When he’s not comfortable or when he’s making outs, he’s always trying to analyze where he’s at,” Brown said. “It’s what makes him a good hitter. …
As the second half of the season rolled around, Negrych found himself in some different positions. His spot in the lineup has dropped from leadoff to later in the order, usually fifth or sixth. He’s gone from a guy whose sole job was to get on base to a hitter in RBI positions. But his approach has remained consistent.
Negrych made the All-Star team as a second baseman, where he made 47 starts. But in the second half of the season, he’s moved to third base.
In his 18 starts there, he’s found a new defensive focus that keeps him a bit sharper in the field and gives him a new challenge.
Gomez made the squad as the DH. His 24 home runs are tied for second most in all of minor league baseball. He has five multi-home run games and tied the Bisons modern era record for most home runs in a month with 13 in June.
Gomez leads the Herd in total bases (152) and slugging percentage (.563).