Vistas’ Mack leading by example in center field

As a 16-year-old last year with the Minot Vistas American Legion baseball team, Alex Mack had plenty of experience to his left and his right as a center fielder.

In left field was 19-year-old Austin Berntson, and in right was 19-year-old Brock Krueger. Sandwiched between them was Mack, a first-year player at the time.

Despite the difference in age and experience, Mack was in control of the outfield.

“Even though they were older they let me take control because the center fielder is usually the one who takes control,” Mack said. “They taught me how to speak up. If I could get to the ball they’d let me have it.”

Now, Mack is a year older and a year wiser with the lessons he learned from Berntson and Krueger, and he’s instilling what he learned into the younger players battling for future playing time in the outfield.

Vistas coach Todd Larson said he sees a lot of Berntson and Krueger in Mack.

“Both those guys quietly went about their business, but the team knew they were leaders,” he said. “That’s really kind of how Alex is. Not a big talker. He leads by example and is having a super year for us.”

Mack is doing his part in the outfield, sporting a .977 fielding percentage. He has just one error in 44 chances, making 42 putouts and recording one assist.

He says the key to a good outfield is communication. He’s witnessed communication breakdowns firsthand.

“It’s really important (to communicate) because if the ball is in between players, you want to know who’s going to get it in case you collide,” Mack said. “One year they didn’t talk and one of the guys got a concussion because they weren’t communicating.”

Mack has been solid year-round for the Vistas in center, but he struggled at the plate early on. His average dipped to .111 through three games and .158 through the first three doubleheaders. Mack lifted his average over .200 on June 9 and beyond .300 by June 19. It hasn’t dropped below .300 since.

“He works really hard in the cage at practice,” Larson said. “He’s looking for his pitch. He’s not getting himself out. Out pitch selection has been a lot better and that’s certainly the case for Alex.”

Mack’s currently batting .340 with a .449 on-base percentage. In his last four games, Mack is 7-for-12 with a home run, three doubles, four RBIs and six runs scored.

With 36 hits in 33 games played, Mack is second to only Grant Larson (39) in the same category. He leads the team with three triples and has strung together seven doubles, two home runs, 14 RBIs and 37 runs scored.

“Great kid, hard-nosed kid,” Todd Larson said. “He’s starting to swing the bat well for us. He had a real good year for us last year as a 16-year-old and has really stepped up. Some of the juniors are having to be leaders for us and he’s certainly one of those guys we’re looking forward to being a leader this year, but more so next year.”

Mack also leads the team with 15 stolen bases. His speed won him the 60-yard dash title at the Twins tryout camp in Mandan on Tuesday.

Mike Kraft covers the Minot Vistas and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.