That’s because he was. As the man with one of the shortest commutes to the Yankees Minor-League Complex, Maruszak, who played collegiately at South Florida and is a native of Pinellas Park, Fla., a stone’s throw from Tampa, he was excited about the coming Double-A season.
His calling card is his versatility, as he can play any position but pitcher. With the Thunder, he’s been stationed at various infield positions, made an appearance behind the plate, and has shagged flies in the outfield.
“I’ll play wherever they want me to,’’ said Maruszak, who, heading into tonight’s series finale with Altoona, is hitting .231 (34-for-147) with a trio of homers and 21 RBIs, fourth on the Thunder, presently 32-20 and on a roll.
“Really I wasn’t pressing the first month up here. I thought I had a lot of quality at-bats, even though the average didn’t show it. I know I’ve gotten several key hits, and my on-base percentage (.343) is all right.”
“Some nights it’s a struggle, but my average is starting to come up. It’s all part of adjusting to a new league at a higher level.’’
Thunder manager Tony Franklin, who has seen his team recover from a slow April start to record a torrid May and secure second place in the Eastern League East one-third of the way through the season, sees improvement with Maruszak and several of his less-experienced players.
It’s what has come naturally each season with Franklin’s teams.
“After a month-and-half or so, and all the adjustment and learning about how teams will pitch to you and how teams will play you, usually a player knows where he is at and what he has to do. We’re making progress, but there is still a long way to go.’’
Maruszak, 24, will obviously play wherever he’s assigned (“After all, I’m a player. I do what I’m told,’’ he chuckles), but he does have two favorite positions.
“Of all the places I’ve played, I like shortstop and third base the best,’’ said Maruszak. “I don’t have to think much there, just react.’’
With that side of the infield occupied with the 2011 Thunder, first base and right field have been his spots in many games.
“Right field has been a lot of fun for me this year,’’ he said. “Really it was something brand-new. I feel comfortable out there. My routes to the ball have been good, and I’m happy with my throws. It’s another position for me.’’
He’s one of those players who genuinely enjoys being part of the game, the team and the clubhouse.
“Right now, we’re playing real well,’’ Maruszak said. “We’re getting hits when we need them. We’re getting good pitching when we need it.’’
He’s also contributed to several rallies, as the Thunder, especially of late and during their recent 7-1 road swing through Reading and Portland, has developed a penchant for carving out come-from-behind wins.
“It really doesn’t bother us if we get down,’’ he said. “We don’t press when we’re behind – that does you no good – we just play the game for nine innings. We have a good club.”
“I’m happy with what I’m doing. There’s a lot of season left to do a lot more.’’
Beginning with tonight’s series-finale with Altoona and a formidable weekend match-up with New Hampshire.
JOHNSON COMING AROUND: During spring training, Thunder designated hitter/outfielder Cody Johnson talked about putting the ball in play, getting hits and the home runs would come.
At times, as happened in the Atlanta system after being the Braves’ first-round pick in 2006, he has struggled. Lately, however, there has been a difference.
“Cody is putting the ball in play as we talked about,’’ said Thunder skipper Franklin. “He’s making more contact, and that’s important.’’
Over his last 10 games, Johnson is batting .293 (12-for-41) with five homers, four doubles and 14 RBIS. Overall, he’s hitting .205 (34-for-166) with 27 RBIs.
The type of power hitter who will always rack up strikeouts – he has 74 – he has homered in four of his last six games and his three-run shot Wednesday afternoon – his 10th – propelled the Thunder to a 7-3 win over Altoona.
If Johnson continues to improve his selectivity and make contact, he could emerge as quite a weapon for the Thunder over the final two-thirds of the season.
FROM MAINE TO OHIO AND VIRGINIA: Thunder lefty starter Shaeffer Hall earned Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors, recording a 2-0, 0.69 mark in his two starts. The 23-year-old Hall, who is 4-3, 3.30, is one of the most-followed Thunder starters on the Internet and through Twitter, with an interested group of fans who follow every start both via Internet radio and through the Social Media outlet. Yankees fans on Twitter are also always looking for information on Thunder starters and blue-chip prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances … Akron’s Tim Fedroff leads the EL with a .367 (65-for-177) average, while Reading’s Cody Overbeck leads in both home runs (14) and RBIs (38). Richmond’s Eric Surkamp (3-2, 1.33) is the ERA leader (Banuelos is fourth at 2-0, 2.12), with Harrisburg’s Brad Peacock, off to a 7-1, 2.03 start, the strikeout leader with 82.