Before his first professional baseball season started, Tyler Bighames set a personal goal of hitting .300.
The Estero graduate, picked in the 31st round by the St. Louis Cardinals, scuffled through a 1-for-15 slump to start his career as he adjusted to a professional baseball player’s lifestyle and much better pitching than he had seen at the high school level. He also was learning a new position, shifting to the outfield after playing shortstop for Estero.
The career-opening slump seems a distant memory now, as Bighames has gone 15-for-36 (.417) since then, raising his average from .067 to .314 with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
“It took some time to get used to the pitching, plus I wasn’t playing every day early on,” Bighames said. “We had four or five guys called up to (short-season Class A) Johnson City recently and I’ve been playing just about every day, either in left field or as the DH.”
Bighames was especially good in a three-game stretch earlier this week, going 3-for-4 with his first professional home run Monday against the GCL Nationals. He followed that up with a 5-for-8 performance in a doubleheader against the GCL Mets.
“The last few days, I’ve felt really dialed in at the plate,” Bighames said. “I’ve got my timing back. It wasn’t quite there early in the season, but since I’ve been playing a lot more, I’m seeing a lot more pitches and getting comfortable at the plate.”
The first home run was a go-ahead opposite-field blast in the top of the 11th off Nationals reliever Rob Wort, who had been 3-0 with a 2.31 earned run average before the Cardinals reached him for five earned runs Monday.
“It’s something I’ll never forget and hopefully it’s the first of many I hit during my career,” Bighames said. “It came off a fastball and at first, I didn’t know if it was going out or not. It was a great moment, and it helped us win the game so that was even better.”
Bighames said he’s enjoying his first taste of pro ball and he’s very hopeful about his future in baseball.
“We’ve got about 25 days or so left in the season, and I just want to show (the Cardinals) what I’m capable of,” Bighames said. “This is the first step of many, and hopefully I continue to do well here and move on to the next level.”
COLEMAN WINS 11TH: Tennessee Smokies right-hander Casey Coleman won his 11th game of the season Wednesday, tossing 51⁄3 innings in a 6-4 win over the Carolina Mudcats.
Coleman surrendered three runs on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts. The former FGCU and Cape Coral-Mariner standout gave up a pair of home runs to Reds prospect Juan Francisco to account for his three runs allowed. A 15th-round selection by the Cubs in last year’s First Year Player Draft, Coleman is 11-5 with a 3.34 earned run average for the Double-A Smokies.