Hometown advantageous for Tribe prospects Alex Lavisky, Nick Hamilton

Indians prospects and native Clevelanders Alex Lavisky and Nick Hamilton in Progressive Field's batting cages last week. (Court Berry-Tripp photo)

Indians prospects and native Clevelanders Alex Lavisky and Nick Hamilton in Progressive Field’s batting cages last week. (Court Berry-Tripp photo)

In addition to being a so-called mid-major, there’s another reason why Kent State’s trip to the College World Series last summer was so surprising.

The Flashes play in a city where the average high temperature is 34 degrees in January and February, making practice leading up to the spring slate a little … difficult, not to mention actually playing games in March in Northeast Ohio.

It’s an obstacle former Flash and current Cleveland Indians prospect Nick Hamilton knows well, and why he’s grateful he and fellow Cleveland native and Tribe hopeful Alex Lavisky can utilize the facilities at Progressive Field to get their offseason work in.

“Especially being northern guys, being (at Progressive Field) is a big help,” Hamilton told TribeVibe last week in the stadium’s batting cages on yet another cold, snowy February day. “Obviously, when you have cold weather, you have to have a place where you can do some stuff. We have a lot of places around the Cleveland area that are great, but nothing quite meets this. When you can have that live BP thrown to you, you can’t beat that.”

Hamilton helped lead the Golden Flashes to the College World Series after being drafted by the Indians in the 35th round of the first-year player draft earlier in June. He hit .337 in 54 games for Kent State, with 35 RBIs and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .838.

As the switch hitter took cuts last week at the stadium, he had a buddy alongside: former Lakewood St. Edward star and 2010 eighth-rounder Alex Lavisky. Not present was Anthony Gallas, a Strongsville native who went undrafted in 2010, signed with the Indians and spent most of last season with the Class A Carolina Mudcats, hitting .250 in 107 games.

Hamilton and Lavisky said they got started with workouts at Progressive Field after the New Year and would use the facilities two to three times a week before heading to Goodyear, Ariz., next week for Spring Training. Like Hamilton, Lavisky appreciates the facility for providing shelter from the winter’s storms.

“It’s a unique setting, and a little surreal,” Lavisky said. “Being here, you have a little benchmark, a symbol we want to work toward. We aren’t as spoiled (by warmer weather) as the southern guys or the guys out west, so it’s nice to get in here with the resources here and get some work done.”

Plus, Hamilton said having Lavisky to push him in workouts and as a sounding board is helpful on cold, winter days.

“It’s always a battle to find guys to be able to work out with and places to be able to work out at,” Hamilton said, a sentiment echoed by Lavisky. “It’s good to have Alex here and Anthony; we all feel a lot more ready for Spring Training having been able to have each other to work out with and catch up with.”

What neither feels is pressure by being hometown kids playing for the Indians. Lavisky spent all of his 2012 season at Class A Lake County, hitting .249 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs in 93 games, and his family was alongside for most of the ride.

Hamilton, meanwhile, played rookie league ball in Arizona and has an extra layer of potential pressure within the organization: His father, Tom, is the Indians’ longtime radio broadcaster and one of the most recognizable voices in the city.

“It’s an enjoyable, unique experience, one that I wasn’t able to pass up coming out of high school,” Lavisky said. “It’s a privilege, a blessing to stay close to home, with my family close, being able to get everything done here. The organization has been accommodating to me and my family throughout the whole process. It’s a situation that doesn’t happen to everybody, so when it does, you have to take advantage of it.”

Said Hamilton: “I don’t feel anything different with having my dad here. It’s great to be able to share things with him and the rest of my family, but as far as being in the organization, there’s no added pressure or anything involved.”

–TribeVibe contributor Joel Hammond

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