Tavis Hasenfus used to show up for baseball practice at Winthrop High School wearing old uniforms that were handed down from his uncles, among them former University of Maine player and current Cony assistant coach Rex Turner.

Except for a couple of jerseys that he brought with him to wear around campus, Hasenfus left most of the uniforms back home in his closet. He’s wearing his own University of Maine gear to practice now.

The speedy freshman is making an immediate impact as a part-time outfielder and the first man off the bench for the Black Bears. And he’s got head coach Steve Trimper excited about what lies in store for the former catcher.

“If I could build a whole team of character guys, I’d put them all around Tavis,” Trimper said. “He’s one of the best character guys I’ve ever had. I just need to get 20 more Tavises.”

Trimper originally thought it might be best to red-shirt the 2006 Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year. But after talking with Hasenfus and seeing how he handled the move to the outfield last fall, the second-year coach thought he could handle being a fourth or fifth outfielder and contribute off the bench with his speed.

Hasenfus not only had to adjust to a new position. He had to adapt to starting a lot of games on the bench, after being in on every play as a catcher.

“It’s hard after sitting around for an hour, hour-and-a-half and then having to go in and hit or play defense,” he said. “It’s tough to get in there and get into a rhythm real quick, especially when it’s cold out.”

“The biggest thing is just being mentally prepared,” he added. “You never know when you’re going to go in.”

When he goes in, he usually makes something happen. Heading into last weekend, he was batting .268 in 56 at bats, including 3-for-5 as a pinch-hitter, with a home run, eight RBIs and 12 runs scored. He’d been a pinch-runner and defensive replacement in several games, but he’d also drawn 13 starts. The starts have been more frequent recently due to injuries and Trimper’s rising confidence in the freshman.

His most recent start came in the second game of Maine’s doubleheader sweep of Hartford Sunday. Hasenfus played left field and went 1-for-4 with a two-run single in the Black Bears’ 14-1 victory.

Hasenfus remembers watching his uncle play for Maine, but “I never really viewed myself as one of them. I’m slowly starting to realize that I fit in and know that I have the ability to play here.”

“The game is a lot faster, and any minor mistake which you make in high school is elevated that much more because you have baserunners who can take advantage of it and just a lot smarter players,” he said. “It kind of took me awhile to get used to it. I’m still not where I need to be or potentially could be. I still have a lot of work to do.”

“A lot of it’s mental, too,” he added. “Physically, I can throw, I can run, I can hit, but baseball is one of those games where you have to be confident. You have to know you can do it.”

Trimper agreed that the key for Hasenfus is keeping his confidence level up and improving on his plate discipline.

“There’s not a better kid in the park as far as attitude and make-up,” he said. “The biggest thing is he’s got to learn how to lay off pitches outside the zone, and he’ll be phenomenal.”

Trimper added that with some seasoning this summer in the New York Collegiate Baseball League, a wood bat league located in upstate New York, Hasenfus could soon develop into a table-setter, someone who can get on base and make things happen on the basepaths.

If he can become that kind of player, Hasenfus said, he’ll feel like a true Maine Black Bear.

“I think if I can just keep learning, keep progressing, this year is going to be a good year no matter what,” he said. “Then at the end I’m going to look back on it and know I never played outfield before, I learned a lot about playing outfield this year, I learned a lot about hitting on the collegiate level.”

“And I think the biggest thing about this year is it will give me confidence, so next year I’ll come in and feel like a part of the team, feel like a good player and start to play the way I know I can.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.