Oklahoma RedHawks designated hitter Nate Gold found a cure for what had been seasonlong inconsistencies at the plate this week: a return home.
Gold, who was born in Bountiful and played high school baseball at Viewmont High, found his swing during the RedHawks' four-game series with the Salt Lake Bees this week. On Friday, he blasted a three-run home run in the first inning. It was his third bomb in four games against the Bees.
Salt Lake easily overcame Gold's early home run by drilling Oklahoma pitchers Michael Ballard, Steve Rowe and Joselo Diaz in a 13-6 win in front of 11,837 fans. The Bees cranked out 18 hits, with Sean Rodriguez leading the offense with four RBIs. Adam Pavkovich and Chris Walker, who went 4-for-4 with a double and triple, had three RBIs apiece.
Despite the loss, the past four days served as a happy homecoming for Gold.
"It's good to come back," Gold said. "I haven't been back here in the summer since high school."
Gold played at Franklin Covey Field for the first time in his career this week, and made himself at home. He batted .412 and drove in six runs. When he hit a solo home run to give Oklahoma a 5-4 lead over Salt Lake on Wednesday night, he received noticeable applause from his family and friends in the crowd. Gold left 20 tickets for family and friends each day during the four-game series, but there were far more than 20 people rooting for him at Franklin Covey this week.
"It's definitely good to play here," Gold said. "It's fun."
Gold, a 1998 Viewmont graduate, was a 10th-round pick of the Texas Rangers, Oklahoma's parent team, in the 2002 draft. Since then, he worked his way through Texas' minor league system, hitting his stride in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, he was named the Rangers' Minor League Player of the Year while playing for Frisco in Double A. He hit .292 and had 103 RBIs that season. He drove in another 103 runs in 2007 while playing for the RedHawks.
Gold, however, hasn't been able to match his production from the last two seasons this year. He has 17 home runs and 66 RBIs but was hitting just .232 entering Friday's game.
"He should have gotten better (than last year)," said Oklahoma manager Bobby Jones. "His home runs and RBIs are fine. His batting average should be a lot higher."
Gold has been healthy this season. He said he started the season in a slump, and it just took some time for him to break out of it.
"That's just the way this game is," Gold said. "You have to battle through it. It took me longer than I wanted to find a swing. Hopefully I can finish strong, ride things out and do good in the playoffs."
Gold's future with the Rangers became somewhat cloudy this season. A first baseman, he was passed up in the organization by rookie Chris Davis. Since being called up to play first base for the Rangers, Davis has hit eight home runs in his first month in the big leagues.
Davis' emergence has actually impacted two players with local ties. Cottonwood High product Chris Shelton was designated for assignment when Davis was promoted, and now Shelton's relationship with the Rangers is unlikely to last past this season.
Although he has yet to get a chance to play in the big leagues, Gold has stayed positive. He said he's fully prepared to play major league baseball."Anytime," he said. "I'm ready."