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Charlotte Knights slugger Andy Wilkins a one-man home run derby

By Seth Lakso
Correspondent
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/29/22/16/1hqJlI.Em.138.jpeg|258
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    Knights slugger Andy Wilkins leads the International League with 26 homers entering Tuesday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/29/22/16/12mAjV.Em.138.jpeg|253
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte first baseman Andy Wilkins takes a swing during the Knights’ game Tuesday night against the Durham Bulls at BB&T BallPark.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/29/22/16/YdJIY.Em.138.jpeg|280
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte Knights slugger Andy Wilkins (17), warms up before the start of Tuesday night's game against the Durham Bulls played at BB&T BallPark July 29,2014.

Indianapolis Indians play-by-play announcer Will Flemming summed up Andy Wilkins’ past two weeks as well as anyone.

“You ... have ... got ... to be kidding me,” Flemming muttered following Wilkins’ third-inning grand slam against the Indians last Wednesday.

It was Wilkins’ second homer of the game – he hit a three-run shot in the first innning – and his double-take inducing ninth in seven games.

“That one was the craziest,” Wilkins said Tuesday, a day after earning his second consecutive International League Batter of the Week Award. “You hit a home run in the first inning of that game and then you hit a grand slam after that. I remember thinking that things just can’t get any better than that.”

In 13 games since the All-Star break all Wilkins, 25, has done is hit .538 (28-for-52) with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs.

Wilkins, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound first baseman,leads the league with 26 homers and 70 RBIs.

“It’s been incredibly shocking,” said Wilkins. “For a week there, I just kept hitting home runs. It was like, ‘Good Lord, what is happening?’ so I’ve enjoyed it and had a lot of fun.”

Wilkins, who hit .252 before the break, credits his improved timing at the plate for his recent assault on Class AAA pitching.

“I’ve figured out this little toe tap and it’s just helped my timing a ton and finally gotten me to a consistent place at the plate,” said Wilkins, whose average now sits at .291. “In baseball, you’re not going to get a hit every time, but I at least feel like I’m giving myself the best possible chance to be in a good hitting position when it’s time to swing.”

With an IL-high 150 home runs hit at BB&T BallPark entering Tuesday, it’s been suggested that Wilkins’ power surge might be the result of hitting in a place fans have begun to affectionately dub, “The Catapult.”

However, Wilkins has split his 26 long balls straight down the middle, with 13 at home and 13 on the road.

Over the past couple weeks Baseball America and MLB.com have come out with their updated versions of each team’s top 20 prospects. Nowhere on either list will you find Wilkins’ name.

Wilkins hasn’t let the omission change the way he approaches the game.

“I’m just trying to put up the best numbers I can while I help my team win,” Wilkins said. “At the end of the day, I think everything will take care of itself. If me being on a prospect list is the only way I’m going to get to the big leagues, then there’s a flaw in the system. It doesn’t bother me, or motivate me any more or less.”

With the non-waiver Major League Baseball’s trade deadline set for Thursday and September roster expansion quickly approaching, the idea that the Tulsa, Okla., native could make his Chicago White Sox debut is getting closer to becoming a reality.

“It would be a dream come true (to be called up),” Wilkins said. “It’s something you think about as a kid.

“Growing up, you feel silly. I can remember when I was in school and having people asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to play baseball and people just kind of looked at me. It’s been my dream forever.”

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