Baseball: Russell Moldenhauer hitting it big with Slammers
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media June 16, 2014 8:58PM
Slammers DH Russell Moldenhauer takes in the action against the Normal CornBelters. | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 18, 2014 6:17AM
Russell Moldenhauer is an even-tempered, easygoing guy who knows what it’s like to launch dramatic home runs.
Twice last week when the Joliet Slammers were down to their final out, the 26-year-old native of Boerne, Texas, hit game-tying home runs and the Slammers went on to win in extra innings.
When Moldenhauer played for Texas, he tied the record for home runs in the College World Series with four in the 2009 final against LSU.
His Joliet teammates call him “grandpa,” being the oldest member of the team, but the Slammers designated hitter/first baseman doesn’t swing the bat anything like a senior citizen.
“If you’re in affiliated ball or the major leagues, 26, 27 is supposed to be your prime years,’’ Moldenhauer said. “So I try to remind the guys of that when they call me ‘grandpa.’ ’’
After getting over a sore hamstring earlier this season, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Moldenhauer leads the Slammers in batting average (.340), home runs (4) and RBI (19).
“I have power, but I’m more of a doubles guy, gap to gap,’’ he said. “I don’t really consider myself too much of a home run hitter. I like to be an on-base guy. I try to have more walks than strikeouts at the end of the year.’’
Not surprising to Joliet manager Jeff Isom, Moldenhauer also leads the Slammers in walks (23).
“He’s very selective at the plate for a power-hitting guy,’’ Isom said. “He knows the strike zone very well, doesn’t offer at pitches out of the zone.’’
That was among many reasons why Isom, who managed the Lake Erie Crushers to the Frontier League title series last year, wanted Moldenhauer for the 2014 Slammers.
“Last year, we got hot middle to end of the season when we ran off 19 of 21 at Lake Erie, you couldn’t get him out,’’ Isom said. “Couldn’t get him out.’’
The Los Angeles Angels picked Moldenhauer in the third round of the 2006 draft because high school pitchers couldn’t get him out, but he opted for college instead of signing with the Angels.
“It was a tough decision,’’ he said. “It didn’t happen until the day before school started at Texas.’’
The Washington Nationals signed Moldenhauer after college in 2010 and he played two seasons in their system before getting released.
From there, Moldenhauer went to Lake Erie and played two years with the Crushers. He hit around .280 both seasons and was a two-time All-Star selection, including the 2013 postseason.
“Affiliated you see guys throwing harder, more pitchers with more velocity,’’ Moldenhauer said. “In this league, there’s a lot of off-speed pitching.’’
It hasn’t seemed to matter what kind of pitching Moldenhauer has seen with the Slammers.
“I really like hitting here,’’ he said. “It’s got a good batter’s eye, which helps a lot more than people think.’’
As for his baseball future, Moldenhauer hasn’t made a decision how long to pursue a return to affiliated ball.
“This could be my last year, depending how well it goes,’’ he said. “I’m just playing this season right now. Who knows what the future holds next year.’’