Hits, runs and acrobatic catches are all fine with Chattanooga Lookouts leadoff batter and center fielder Zack Granite, but nothing makes him happier than successful thievery.
Granite entered Sunday night's series finale in Pensacola with 30 stolen bases, which ranks second in the Southern League. The 5-foot-11, 167-pounder from Staten Island, N.Y., already has topped the 28 steals he compiled last season at the Single-A levels.
"Stolen bases are something I take personally," Granite said. "When I get a walk or a hit, now it's my game. I know the guy behind me will be getting a lot of fastballs, but it doesn't matter. I'm going to steal that bag no matter what, and there is nothing that ticks me off more than getting caught stealing.
"If I go 4-for-4 but get thrown out once, I am ticked."
The Lookouts are back at AT&T Field tonight for a 6:15 game against Birmingham that will be followed by Fourth of July fireworks.
Donell Nixon ran away with Chattanooga's single-season record for stolen bases by amassing 102 in 1984, when the Lookouts were Class AA affiliates of the Seattle Mariners. Dee Gordon had 53 for the Lookouts in 2010, when they were in the second of a six-year partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Granite would have collected 38 stolen bases entering Sunday night had he not been thrown out eight times, but the missed opportunities do not frustrate Doug Mientkiewicz. Chattanooga's second-year manager has been giving the 23-year-old the green light all season when it comes to moving up 90 feet.
"I've always felt that if you tell a guy who can run when to run, he doesn't get the best jump," Mientkiewicz said. "We preach to guys through all of our levels that the only way you're going to learn when you can or can't go is to go. We run the bases a little out of control, but at the same token, I want them making mistakes here.
"We've run ourselves out of a number of innings, but we've also won some games because of the way we run the bases."
Mientkiewicz considers Granite the best in Minnesota's farm system when it comes to knowing when and when not to steal, and Granite certainly appreciates the freedom.
"Doug is the man and lets me do whatever I want, which is big for me, because any time I'm on, I'm looking to run," Granite said. "He's a very aggressive coach, and I'm very aggressive on the bases. We've been in a lot of tight games this season, and a lot of these bags have meant something."
Granite, a 14th-round pick of the Twins in 2013 out of Seton Hall, entered this season as a career .273 hitter in the minor leagues. Entering Sunday night, he was hitting .294 in his first Double-A season with four home runs and 24 RBIs.
A goal shared by Granite and Mientkiewicz for the rest of this season is for Granite to steal third base more. That can be a challenge when the left-handed Daniel Palka is at the plate, since catchers can throw straight up the line without a hindrance, but defenses are shifting on Palka more, which has opposing third basemen further from the bag.
Granite is up for the task, because he knows it could be his ticket to bigger and better things.
"I take a lot of pride in what I do on the base paths, because that's how I'm going to get through the system," he said. "I've got to be consistent and cause havoc."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.