Whit Merrifield will forever be remembered for delivering the extra-inning hit last season that gave USC its first national championship in baseball. Now, Merrifield's attention is focused on his pro baseball future. This year he is an outfielder for the Blue Rocks, the Royals' Class A affiliate in Wilmington, Del.
Merrifield is providing GoGamecocks with a weekly diary this summer chronicling his experiences in the minor leagues.
The numbers: Merrifield is batting .309 with 13 doubles, one home run, 18 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He is one of eight Carolina League batters with an average above .300.
The schedule: Merrifield is back in the Carolinas. The Blue Rocks spent their only day off in May - Thursday - on a 9.5-hour bus ride to Myrtle Beach, where they'll face the Pelicans this weekend. After that they head to North Carolina to face the Kinston Indians.
MERRIFIELD'S FIRST HOMER - MAY 18 AT SALEM
"We were playing in Salem, Virginia, in a noon game on a Wednesday. My family actually decided to come up. It's not far from my house. I was facing some lefty - I forgot his name - but he was throwing pretty hard. I got the 2-0 count and I hit it well, and it went out for me.
It was definitely cool that they picked that game to come to. They'll be in Myrtle Beach. Hopefully I'll hit a couple for them there.
I've hit four or five balls this year just like that at our park. At our park it's not very easy to hit a ball out to left field. It's kind of a pitcher-friendly park at our place. That's a big reason why my power numbers are down a little bit.
I hit five last year in Iowa. It was the first one this year."
"I'm pretty pleased with the way I've been playing. The last week or so I've hit some balls hard right at people that have dropped my numbers just a little bit. Overall I've been swinging the bat really well.
Hopefully I can keep it up and catch fire going into the all-star break. I have one of the top averages in the league. Hopefully I'll keep my numbers up these next couple of weeks and make the all-star team.
There's a three-day break for the all-star break. The way it works for us, the whole league is one all-star team. And this year we're playing against the California League all-stars. We'll fly out to California to face the team."
THE LONG BUS RIDE TO MYRTLE BEACH
"That's pretty much how it is down here at the lower levels. You feel like you live on the bus. We're constantly on the bus. Our last homestand, we got home at 6 in the morning (from Salem, Va.). We had to wake up and play again that night. It's constant travel, but it's part of the lifestyle.
The first time we were down there (at Myrtle Beach), I had a pretty good fan base to see me play. Hopefully we'll have a good showing down there.
I just like being down there with my family. My grandmother has a place about 15 minutes away, so we go hang out there on the beach. It will be a good time to get away from baseball just a little bit during the day and hang out with my family."