GENEVA – House of Pain’s “Jump Around” blares over the public address system before each Dan Vogelbach at-bat at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
No, the Cougars first baseman isn’t following any titular advice during his .283 start entering Thursday. That’s simply the natural excitement of a player enthused about delivering on his high stock in the Cubs’ system, regardless of early ups and downs.
Vogelbach swatted his first home run of the season in Wisconsin last weekend, providing a moment he knows fans were waiting for. He had two hits in the next 12 at-bats to finish an abbreviated road trip, but hasn’t sulked. Get used to it.
“I love playing with him. He never really gets down,” designated hitter Rock Shoulders said. “If he gets out, he usually tells everybody to stay with it, stay with it.”
While forward-thinking Cubs fans won’t flock to Geneva to see a 6-foot, 250-pound clubhouse guy this summer, that’s part of what they’ll get in this burly left-handed hitter.
Like any teammate, Vogelbach enjoys his own private headphone or cellphone session. Most times, though, he’s bounding around, talking and joking. A slower-than-expected start shouldn’t change that.
“I’ve been swinging the bat well. Some balls haven’t been falling,” Vogelbach said. “I’m hitting a lot of balls at people, but it’s something I can’t control.”
Before the season, Vogelbach downplayed his standing as the Cubs’ No. 7 prospect, according to Baseball America. His .322 average was third-best in the organization in 2012, as he hit 17 home runs in 61 games between Rookie League Arizona and Short-A Boise.
Vogelbach routinely batted fourth as Boise advanced to the Northwest League championship series, hitting behind current teammate Jeimer Candelario and ahead of Shoulders.
During spring training, Vogelbach approached manager Mark Johnson about changing spots in the order with Candelario, the Cougars’ third baseman. Neither party disagreed, and Johnson has since seen a more stable Vogelbach at-bat.
“I think his mindset is a little bit better and he just seems to be going up to the plate with more confidence,” Johnson said.
Drafted in the second round in 2011 out of Bishop Verot High in Fort Myers, Fla., Vogelbach also has deflected the pesky early-season weather as anything of importance.
He keeps working to tune out such potential distractions. The speeding cars that serve as the hitter’s backdrop at Fox Cities Stadium in Wisconsin were another hurdle he easily cleared.
“I’m not big on that type of stuff, and I don’t think any of the guys are,” Vogelbach said. “You’ve just got to stay focused on what you’re trying to do. There’s always going to be things in the outer skirts that are going to affect people, but if you stay with your mindset and you stay with your routine, nothing like that will affect you.”
In the back of his mind, Vogelbach knows his name will be on the lips of even casual farm system followers who come to the park this season.
His interactive walk-up song should be a natural conversation-starter, but Vogelbach seeks to make a more lasting impression with his swing.