Thiel a surprising slugger for RoughridersBefore the American Legion baseball season began, Dickinson Roughriders coach Andy Emard presented Taylor Thiel with a choice.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Before the American Legion baseball season began, Dickinson Roughriders coach Andy Emard presented Taylor Thiel with a choice.
He could play for the Roughriders this summer and fight for playing time. Or, he could stay with Dickinson Volunteers Senior Babe Ruth team one last season and continue to improve.
Thiel, who will be a senior at Dickinson High School this fall, chose the Roughriders.
Emard stressed to Thiel that his playing time would be based on his performance on the field.
“He (Emard) said, you’re going to have to outplay the other players to get some playing time,” Thiel said.
Thiel, a 17-year-old described as quiet by his coaches and teammates, is letting his bat do the talking.
He has hit three home runs and provided the Roughriders with their most consistent, and confident, batter.
“Confidence is a big part of the game,” Thiel said. “If you don’t have confidence, you’re probably not going to do very good. You could get lucky a few times, but I mean, if you have the confidence, you’re going to do good.”
Though the Roughriders haven’t compiled their complete stats, Emard estimates Thiel has a batting average between .600 and .700 this season.
He has a hit in 15 of the Roughriders’ 16 games and in most games, he has multiple hits, Emard said.
“There was a point where, early in the season, we really weren’t swinging it and he was our sole offense,” Emard said.
Thiel began the season batting toward the bottom of Dickinson’s batting order and has slowly worked his way up the lineup.
When the Roughriders host the West Fargo Patriots at 5 p.m. today in a doubleheader, Thiel will likely bat in the No. 3 spot.
To Thiel’s teammates, his rapid rise has been perhaps the best part of the Roughriders’ up-and-down season.
“I knew he would be batting in the lineup somewhere,” said pitcher Taylor Kraenzel, who came up through the Dickinson Baseball Club alongside Thiel. “I didn’t think he’d be this hot right away, but he’s came in and proven his point.”
As long as he keeps putting the bat on the ball, Thiel is expected to continue establishing his confidence.
“It’s amazing,” Thiel said. “I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever really hit this much before. To be bumped up to the three hitter is just awesome. My teammates have confidence in me and my coaches have confidence.”
Finding a place for him in the field, however, has been one of Emard’s biggest conundrums.
Thiel has played first base and right field, but mostly he is listed as the team’s designated hitter.
“He’ll be the first to admit it,” Emard said, “I don’t think he’s winning gold gloves at a lot of spots. But we’ll find a place to get him in the lineup and make sure he’ll be productive for us on the offensive end.”
While it may be cliché, Thiel embodies the qualities of “speak softly and carry a big stick,” when he gets into the circle.
Some batters approach the plate with swagger and take their time with check swings.
Thiel comes up very workmanlike. He keeps his head up with his eyes on the pitcher as he moves into a tall, almost stiff, stance before taking only a few quick warm-up cuts.
It’s not cool and it’s not even close to cocky. But it works.
“His swing is a lot like his personality,” Emard said. “He doesn’t waste a whole lot of time with a lot of words, he just gets up there and gets a pitch he likes and attacks.”