Vandy’s ‘Energizer bunny’ producing best season

Friday, April 18, 2008 at 1:14am

Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin was asked to describe the performance of senior center fielder David Macias after last weekend’s series at Mississippi State.

“Unbelievable,” Corbin said without hesitation.

With Macias leading the way offensively and defensively, the Commodores administered a three-game series sweep, their first on the road in Southeastern Conference play since 1993.

Macias collected eight hits in 15 at-bats, made two highlight-reel catches in the outfield and continued to play at a level that Corbin says would be worthy of team Most Valuable Player consideration if the season ended today.

The 5-foot-9 Macias, in his third year as a starter, has always been an effective leadoff hitter. This season, he’s pushing his game to new territory. He currently leads 17th-ranked Vanderbilt with a .394 batting average [40 points higher than any teammate] and has slugged a career-high six home runs.

“I was expecting him to get a hit every time he was up,” teammate Alex Feinberg said of Macias’ performance last weekend.

Few could have foreseen such a season for Macias when he arrived at Vanderbilt in 2004 out of The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston. He was a shortstop who had never played the outfield, and he was not projected to become a dangerous hitter.

Baseball, however, is a matter of passion for Macias, whose father, Diogenes, was born in Venezuela, and whose mother, Raquel, is a native of Mexico. Macias, the youngest of five brothers, is the only one to have been born in the U.S.

Macias quickly showed Corbin an astounding work ethic that persists four years later. Before last Friday’s game at Mississippi State, Corbin looked on during batting practice as Macias dived for balls in the outfield.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Here’s a guy who has played in this league for four years and he’s never slowed down one step whatsoever,’” Corbin said. “He’s still laying out during batting practice when no one is in the stands. It’s just what he’s used to doing, and he carries that same mentality to the game.”

That approach has transformed Macias into a top-flight center fielder who has range and can gun runners down with his arm.

“I came here as a shortstop and told the coach I just wanted to help the team any way I could,” Macias said. “He stuck me in the outfield. One day I made a diving catch and he stuck me out there for good. Now I’ve been out there for three years. I’ve improved over the years. It’s been a lot of fun. I feel comfortable in center field.”

Added Corbin: “He plays center field as well as anyone in this conference, bar none.”

Macias doesn’t have a handy explanation for his offensive surge this season. Other than switching from a 33-inch bat to a 34-inch model, he’s made no changes to his game. He’s working no harder than he ever did.

Corbin suggests maturity is paying off. Macias is a college-baseball rarity, an experienced senior starter in a power conference. Many such players enter the Major League Baseball Draft after their junior seasons.

“Macias is the reason why kids come back and play their senior years of college baseball,” Corbin said. “They start to figure things out and start to understand it, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. They start to learn the game and get comfortable playing.”

And, of course, there’s the matter of effort and will, which Macias puts forth relentlessly.

“He’s the Energizer bunny,” Corbin said. “Same mood every day, same energy level every day. It hasn’t changed in four years.”

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