Hankins seizes second chance
by Devon Jeffreys, Herald Staff
June 30 2010 at 1550 | 696 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Herald photo by Romeo Guzman. Oviedo’s Todd Hankins has gotten off to a fast start with the bat since joining the River Rats last week.
Herald photo by Romeo Guzman. Oviedo’s Todd Hankins has gotten off to a fast start with the bat since joining the River Rats last week.
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SANFORD — In the midst of their current winning streak, The Sanford River Rats have also made some big additions to their roster.

The biggest of those for local fans might be the River Rats arrival of another Seminole County high school product, Oviedo's Todd Hankins.

Hankins, who attended the University of Georgia last season, joined the Rats on Thursday and was thrust into the lineup for the first time on Friday playing second base.

He debuted at the plate with a bloop single over short in the second inning and went two-for-three on the night with a pair of runs scored as the Rats picked up their seventh straight win with an 8-0 drubbing of DeLand.

"I didn't really know how I was going to play with wood bats and not seeing live pitching in a couple months," said Hankins. "But luckily I got a hit in my first at-bat. It took all the pressure off. I actually got on base all four times."

Hankins was indeed on following every one of his at-bats. In the third inning he grounded into a force out at second, but hustled down the line to beat out a potential double play. He broke up another double play when Wes Newman grounded to short and Hankins, who was running on the play, beat the shortstop to the bag, forcing him to fire to first and get only one out. Nate Gonzalez followed with an RBI single, scoring a hustling Hankins from second with the game's first run.

"I've always been known for running balls out all the time, even if it's just a pretty easy out," Hankins said. "That's how I get a lot of my hits is just hustling."

Hankins walked in his third at bat in the fifth, then singled and scored in Sanford's six-run eighth inning.

"It felt good and I'm glad to be a part of the team," Hankins said of his Friday night contributions. Come fall, he'll be part of another local team as he completes his transfer from the University of Georgia to Seminole State College of Florida in Lake Mary.

Hankins hit for a .320 average in his freshman season for the Bulldogs. He was sixth on the team in runs scored with 23 and had a homer and 13 RBI in 42 games. But after the season Hankins was told he might see a decrease in his playing time. That news combined with large tuition payments at Georgia made Hankins take a look at his options.

It was then, that based on what he'd heard about Seminole State and coach Chris Hayes and also given the school's closeness to his home in Oviedo, Hankins decided to become a Raider.

"I heard Coach Hayes is a great coach and we just made the decision off of people's opinions. I listened to them and went ahead and signed at the first school I looked at," Hankins said. "It's amazing. I'm living out of my home right now and I'll be living 30 minutes from my house during the school year. So my parents will be able to come watch me play every day."

Once Hankins signed, Hayes immediately went to work getting Hankins a spot in the FCSL.

"It was a long chain of events," Hankins said. "I was actually supposed to play in the New England [Cape Cod] league but when I ended up transferring from Georgia and signing with Seminole State, Coach Hayes at Seminole State got me hooked up over here."

Hankins will play mostly second base for the River Rats, a position at which the team had been so starved for offense that that they began playing natural third baseman Tyler Benzel there. Hankins played shortstop at Oviedo, but transitioned to second at Georgia to accommodate Bulldogs freshman All-American shortstop Kyle Farmer this season.

Though he did commit 18 errors at second for Georgia this year, Hankins showed a slick glove there on Friday. He gobbled up a pair of ground balls late in the game with ease and turned a picture perfect double play to get Zach Haile out of a jam. He even made a terrific play on a stolen base, ranging wide on an errant throw by catcher Nate Gonzalez to stop the base-stealer from heading for third.

Hankins also saw some time at third base late in games on Sunday and Monday. It's unclear which position Hankins will man at Seminole State next year but experience at a number infield positions can't hurt him. On Friday he became the fourth Raider to play for the Rats and he said the others have told him good things.

"They say Coach Hayes is a great coach. He'll make you run a little bit, so I'll be in great shape by the time the season starts, which is a good thing," Hankins said. "They like it a lot."

Hankins stayed hot at the plate beyond his debut, contributing to two more Sanford wins. He had a pair of hits in the Rats' 6-0 win in Leesburg on Sunday and he singled and scored twice in the Rats 17-5 dismantling of Winter Park on Monday night.

Through three games he was 5-for-10 with five runs scored and three walks accounting a .615 on-base percentage. It's a small sample size, but through his first four games with the Rats, Hankins has seen that winning is contagious.

"You can tell that this team is playing to win, I've only been here for two games and we've won both of them pretty easily," Hankins said on Friday. "It's definitely a good program to be a part of."