Crowding the plate, Tim Maitland stares intently at the pitcher and does not give an inch, even as a 90 mph fastball heads directly at him.
At this point, most hitters would take their cue and move off of the plate to avoid the sting of impact — not Maitland. He takes the pain and calmly strides to first base.
Seeing him walk to first after getting hit by a pitch is no surprise to anyone familiar with Texas baseball. It seems that every game or two Maitland is plunked and gets the free pass to first. This was never more evident than in Tuesday’s game against Dallas Baptist, where the center fielder was hit by inside fastballs in his first two plate appearances and was nearly grazed again in his third at bat.
“It’s kind of my thing I guess,” said Maitland with a laugh. “I’ve always been known for not moving away from the pitch and I guess I just got really good at not moving.”
Really good might be an understatement. He’s already been hit six times this season, single-handedly accounting for 30 percent of the team’s hit by pitches.
However, Maitland, a senior, brings much more to the team than a high pain tolerance. He is a leader on the field and plays the game the correct way, giving his all to every inning and every pitch, which has garnered him the ultimate respect of his teammates and his coaches.
“He is very popular with his teammates because he does everything the right way, he does everything to the best of his abilities,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “He provides leadership with the way he does things on a daily basis, everyone trusts him and everyone respects his work ethic. I think he has the ultimate reward from a team standpoint that everyone on the team respects him tremendously.”
Maitland’s success hasn’t come overnight, however. This is his first full season as a starter, as he has waited his turn behind a group of talented outfielders in his time on the 40 Acres. Actually, he wasn’t slated to be the starter going into this season. It took a season-ending injury to returning starter Cohl Walla for Maitland to get his opportunity to start in center — and he’s taken full advantage of it.
Maitland has been a steady presence in the No. 2 spot in the lineup for Texas, hitting .294 and leading the team with a .442 on base percentage. On top of that, he’s been a spark in a batting order that has been in desperate need of help.
“I’ve worked my hardest everyday out there in practice and in the game to make sure I’ve put all I can into it,” Maitland said.” And I’m pretty confident with the way I’m playing out there right now.“
Garrido knows he can rely on him to be a consistent presence the rest of the year in center and at the plate. But what he really likes is that he is a “pest” at the plate for opposing pitchers and makes them work the whole at bat — a description Maitland has embraced.
“Anytime you have a little lefty that crowds the plate, has a good eye and is willing to wear anything inside, if I was a pitcher I’d find that annoying,” Maitland said. “As a small lefty, I’ve got to be as pesky as I can to get on base.”
Maitland will bring that same tough-minded approach to the plate this weekend as Texas takes on Loyola Marymount at home in a three game set.
Printed on Friday, March 9, 2012 as: Maitland gets chance, makes most of it