UNIVERSITY PARK — The physiques housed in the State College Spikes’ clubhouse can wrangle the confidence of the merely fit and wilt the esteem of the out of shape.
In fact, imagine a camera’s lens quickly scanning the room. Muscles ripple, skin – nearly completely devoid of fat – stretches tight like laminate, while veins bulge like tributaries overflowed after a powerful storm.
As the camera continues its pan, it doubles back to Jimmy Bosco, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound centerfielder previously eclipsed by his meatier mates.
“I was dealt the hand that I was dealt with my size,” Bosco said recently. “I know that I need to be a certain type of player. I accept that and I embrace that role and I know that … I need to get on base for the bigger guys.”
The St. Louis Cardinals’ 13th-round pick in 2013 has been anything but small on the field.
After becoming the first Spike to hit for the cycle Wednesday, Bosco now leads the New York-Penn League in batting average, hits, runs and on-base percentage, and is tied in total bases - great numbers for any leadoff man.
However, perhaps equally impressive are his power numbers.
The Granite Bay, Calif., native is second in slugging percentage (.829) behind the Williamsport Crosscutters’ 6-foot-3, 210-pound power-hitting third baseman Zach Green (.879). The two are also tied for the lead in total bases with 29.
Bosco, 22, is also first in on-base plus slugging (1.316), tied for second in triples (two) and tied for fourth in both home runs (two) and doubles (four).
His .429 batting average and 15 hits slightly best his long-armed, 6-foot-5, 200-pound teammate Ronald Castillo’s .389 average and 14 hits. Bosco even has one more RBI (6) than 6-foot-5, 200-pound cleanup man David Washington, whose nine home runs as a Battavia Muckdog back in 2012 tied for third in the NY-PL.
“He comes from a college where he was a complete performer,” said Spikes manager Oliver Marmol. “He had very good numbers. We didn’t know what to expect coming in here and he’s done a nice job.”
At Menlo College, a private school located in California’s Silicon Valley with a maximum enrollment of 750, Bosco won NAIA Player of the Year and was a first-team All-American in right field.
He also led the nation in slugging percentage and total bases, and was second in home runs while leading the Oaks in every major statistical category.
When he was selected 395th overall by the Cardinals, Bosco became the school’s first position player to be drafted.
Bosco doesn’t seem to use the diminutive dimensions of his school or himself for motivation. Instead, he takes a more logical approach.
“I wouldn’t say it gives me a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “It just makes it clear as to what type of player I need to be to be successful on this team and my career in baseball.”
Growing up, geography made him a fan of former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, but genetics made him look up to guys such as 5-foot-8, 165-pound Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and 5-foot-7, 175-pound former Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein.
“I always admired (Pedroia and Eckstein), but my favorite player growing up in northern California was Barry Bonds,” Bosco said. “But I knew I was never going to be a player like that.”
Now, Bosco is an effective, efficient and dangerous leadoff man. He is 8-for-15 in his last four games including Tuesday’s rain-suspended contest with the Jammers.
Five of those hits went for extra bases and two were home runs. He’s also scored six times during the span.
“It’s very dangerous,” Marmol said of getting Bosco on base. “It puts pressure on the defense. It puts pressure on the manager. Just overall, when you add pressure every single inning, you’re bound to break. So having that leadoff man on is definitely a huge advantage.”
Hot streaks like this don’t usually last long and a larger sample size will ultimately unveil Bosco’s true potential. However, what certainly has been revealed thus far is his team-first approach.
Bosco deflects adulation and praise toward his teammates and managers.
“I don’t want to be able to take all the credit for this,” he said. “Because there are many people that have put me in a position to succeed. Those are the people that deserve much more credit then they might receive and that’s important to me.”