MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: Allen shakes off slow start in RockHounds first home victory

Midland RockHounds shortstop Nick Allen didn’t have his best games in the team’s season-opening series last week against the Frisco Rough Riders.

Allen came out of the road trip with a .09 batting average after going 2 for 22 at the plate, with both hits coming in Saturday’s game.

He didn’t let that stick in his head for long, immediately finding a way to clean things up in the RockHounds’ 2021 home opener against the San Antonio Missions on Tuesday at Momentum Bank Ballpark.

The San Diego, California native had a solid showing, going 3 for 3 with two RBIs in Midland’s 6-1 victory.

RockHounds manager Bobby Crosby said Allen is a player he doesn’t have to worry about because of his work ethic. He knows the young shortstop will always show up when the team needs him.

“He’s a gamer,” Crosby said. “He didn’t get off to the start he wanted, but I never worry about him because he’s going to find a way to succeed.”

Allen was selected by the Oakland Athletics organization in the third round of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Parker High School in San Diego.

He has spent his entire professional career in the A’s organization, playing for the AZL Athletics, Beloit Snappers, Stockton Ports, Mesa Solar Sox and now the RockHounds.

The experience has given him confidence, even as he made his professional debut at a young age. Allen, born in 1998, currently is the youngest player on the RockHounds’ active roster.

The 22-year-old said the locker room in Midland doesn’t really revolve around age, giving him the opportunity to contribute strong input to all of his teammates.

“You just get your work in and get in and get out,” Allen said. “You try to help the team win as best as you can.”

For Crosby, having a prospect with playing experience like Allen is important.

He believes Allen can make huge strides throughout his professional career if he stays focused on the task at hand.

Allen first made a name for himself in high school with a .372 batting average over four years as a varsity player.

He recorded 63 RBIs, but made his impact felt on the defensive side of the ball and as a base runner.

Allen stole 101 bases throughout his high school career and contributed 205 put outs as a defender.

He was Baseball America’s 29th-rated prospect in the country, committing to play collegiately at the University of Southern California.

He opted instead to take the professional route and played his first season with the AZL Athletics at the age of 18.

Like many minor league players across the country, Allen didn’t play during the 2020 season because it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday was the first time Allen played in front of a home crowd since the 2019 campaign.

He said it felt good to perform and get a win in front of the Midland fans.

“We had a good crowd, we’re going to try to come out and win for them,” Allen said. “If they can keep coming out and supporting us, that would help us a lot.”

Knocking the season-opening rust off was also a good feeling for Allen, who wants to focus on each game of the 2021 season as it comes. Allen already showed some defensive prowess through his team’s first two series against Frisco and San Antonio, contributing eight put outs and three double plays.

Playing under Crosby has helped Allen get comfortable in his next stop.

The shortstop and manager met at a pre-draft workout earlier in Allen’s career, starting a coach-player connection that has lasted through the player’s movement in the A’s organization.

“He’s really helped me so much defensively,” Allen said. “He was an awesome player but he’s a great coach as well.”

Allen and the RockHounds continue their home series against the San Antonio Missions throughout the rest of the week, with the final game taking place at 2 p.m. Sunday.

>> Follow Chris Amaya on Twitter at @OA_CAmaya