Kolbrin Vitek wrapped up his first full season in the minor leagues in 2011, appearing in 123 games for the Salem Red Sox in the Carolina League. Salem is the Class "A" Advanced team of the Boston Red Sox.
Unlike Vitek's first year, which included being drafted out of Ball State University and moving between two minor league teams, Vitek spent the entire 2011 campaign with one ballclub.
"This season was a lot of fun and a great learning experience," remarked the Bryan High School product. "Playing with one team the entire summer was great because you feel like part of a team again. It was tough bouncing around from team to team last year and playing with new teammates."
The third baseman led the team in at-bats (473), hits (133), runs (78), and triples (6) as he batted .281 on the season. More importantly than the numbers themselves, he was happy with the way he improved his all-around game.
"I feel this season went well for me," stated Vitek. "I made huge improvements both offensively and defensively, which I was very happy about. The feedback I got from the Red Sox was all positive and that's all I can ask for.
"Also the Carolina League is known as one of the toughest leagues for hitters in all of professional baseball so a lot of adjustments at the plate had to be made."
After hitting .264 in the first half of the season going 66-for-250 at the plate in 66 games, Vitek upped his average by going 67-for-223 (.300 avg.) in 57 games in the second half of the season. He also finished with 22 doubles, 43 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
"My approach and an eye for the strike zone at the plate were greatly improved this year," said Vitek, who cut down his strikeout per at-bat ratio from his 2010 minor league numbers. "But more importantly, my defense improved. Going into the season, defense was my main focus and I made huge improvements by just putting in a lot of extra work on the side."
All of the extra side work and the rigors of a 140-game season, however, took a toll on the 22-year-old, who was forced to miss the final seven games of the season after he strained his oblique during an at-bat on Aug. 28.
"The biggest challenge of this season was the length and number of games. A lot of people don't realize we are putting work in on the field starting around 2:30 p.m. everyday for a 7 p.m. game," said Vitek. "140 games in about a 150-day stretch takes a serious toll on your body. Just maintaining the strength and health for that length of time was a big challenge."
After the season Vitek put in more work with the Red Sox staff in Fort Myers, Fla. Now it's back to his home in Nashville, Tenn., to take a break from baseball before preparing for spring training.
"Now that the season is over, I want to allow some time for my body to rest then it's back to work in the weight room, especially trying to increase my overall strength for next year season," concluded Vitek. "I definitely plan to take a step away from baseball for a good month or so because players can get so wrapped up on the game that it can only hurt them. A good balance in life is important, so I will try to get involved with anything that can bring diversity to my daily activities."