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By Mark Littleton
ZondervanCopyright © 2002 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJOHN OLERUD: Hitting Steady, Hitting Hard
Not many first basemen win batting titles. But few who saw John Olerud play during his high school and college years were surprised when John won the American League batting title in 1993. He won it with a .363 average; through early August, he was hitting .400. He also logged 54 doubles, 24 home runs, and 107 RBIs. He definitely made a big contribution to the Toronto Blue Jays winning the World Series that year.
A reporter asked him some years later, "Do you think you can hit .363 again?"
John, always cautious and soft-spoken, said, "It  was a very good year for me. Everything went right. I just felt awfully good at the plate. I swung the bat real well. I had good plate coverage and good balance. Do I think I can do it again? Yes, I think I'm capable of hitting at that level. The last couple of years, I've gotten some bad mechanics in my swing. I haven't felt that same feeling as ninety-three.... [I must] go back to the basics and try to get that same rhythm, timing, and balance back. That's what I'm working on."
John's dedication to improving his game has made him a crowd favorite. Fans see him as the consistent, reliable lefty. He rarely makes errors at first base, and, with a bat in his hand, he is always a hard out. He knows how to read a pitcher.
In 1993, John made a serious run at the incredible .400 average mark, last achieved by Ted Williams in 1941, with a .406 average. On June 28, 1993, John was hitting .401 and enjoying a 25-game hitting streak. Before 1993, the last major-league player to hit over .400 that late in the season was George Brett in 1980. (Brett made it to August hitting over .400. But he ended up the season with a .390 average.)
I'm 6' 5", weigh 245 pounds, and my arms are as big as many men's thighs. I hit 52 home runs in 1996, 58 in 1997, and 70 in 1998. I cooled off in 1999 with 65 homers. Who am I?
Answer: Mark McGwire
Excerpted from Baseball by Mark Littleton Copyright © 2002 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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