The Experience: Even-keeled Windsor junior Owen Lockner has four-home run day, despite modest approach | MyWindsorNow.com

The Experience: Even-keeled Windsor junior Owen Lockner has four-home run day, despite modest approach

Bobby Fernandez
bfernandez@greeleytribune.com

Windsor's Brad Deal has coached varsity baseball for a couple decades.

Wizards junior Owen Lockner has played varsity baseball for a month.

Yet, just a month is all it took for Lockner to show Deal something he had never seen in his decades coaching.

Then again, it would be quite a task to find anyone who has ever seen a performance quite like the one Lockner — a 6-foot, 175-pound third baseman/right-handed pitcher — had against Mesa Ridge on April 17.

Unbeaten Windsor (14-0) beat the Grizzlies 29-3 — yes, 29-3.

Lockner, in his four at-bats, had four home runs — yes, four home runs — and 10 RBI.

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That would represent a good full season for a junior playing for the first time at the varsity level.

But, it wasn't a full season. It was just one game, and one memorable experience.

He thought he'd seen it all

Deal has played and coached baseball all his life.

He competed in college at the University of Northern Colorado and has been a high school coach at Brush, Windsor and Fort Collins, where he assisted his father.

Yet, in his decades upon decades being intimately tied to the sport, he had never seen anything quite like Lockner's hitting outburst just more than a week ago.

"Never, I've never seen that," Deal said. "And, each home run he hit was farther than the previous one. That was pretty fun to see."

When asked what such a performance could do for the budding confidence of a kid still just getting his feet wet at the varsity level, again, Deal had to plead the fifth.

One could assume Lockner's sense of belonging is sky high. But there is just no precedence for this kind of performance.

"I don't know because I've never seen it before," Deal said. "(The next game), he was ready to go. On his first at-bat, he hit a single right back up the middle. He's a humble kid. So, this won't go to this head. He'll keep working."

It was also the first time in Lockner's life he had a multi-home run day.

"It was kind of special," Lockner understated.

A simple approach

Lockner really isn't a home run hitter, per se.

More and more batters at all levels are gunning for home runs and extra-base hits, even at the expense of striking out more than what's normally acceptable — kind of how so many analytic gurus in basketball preach the virtue of shooting 34 percent from 3-point range and firing away, as opposed to, say, shooting 50 percent taking safer but less fruitful midrange jump shots.

With that said, Lockner is more of a traditionalist.

Even after racking up enough home runs against Mesa Ridge to vault him from 43rd to a tie for first in 4A in the statewide leaderboard, he's kept his swing nice and simple. Even on the third and fourth at-bat of his four-home run rampage, he was never swinging for the fences.

Considering how little Lockner cares about blasting the ball, even he was a bit surprised when he saw baseball after baseball sail off the sweet spot of his bat, over the outfield fence.

"I usually just go up there expecting to just get base hits, nothing really too big," he said. "I just tried to square up the ball, hit it hard, just keep with my daily routine."

Unfazed, unaffected by the elements

Of course, for anyone who recalls what the weather was like April 17, one burning question remains: How big a role did the heavy, wild wind play?

Players savvy enough could use the wind to their advantage.

Those who are flustered by the wind might never be able to put the ball in play. The wind works against them.

But, according to Deal — who knows a legit home-run ball when he sees one — the wind didn't play the slightest factor in Locker's monster day. He was just dialed in.

"The wind was blowing, but the balls he hit were legitimate home runs," Deal said. "His timing was good. The approach was good. He was just 'on'."

If you ask Lockner about the wind, he's likely to ask "what wind?". He paid no mind to the wind, and certainly didn't worry about playing off of the wind, as he crushed hard-hit line-drive after hard-hit line drive out of Mesa Ridge's park.

"I was just trying to stay even, not get too excited and not try to do anything different, like try to pull the ball," Lockner said. "I was just trying to stay where I was at, stay in the (strike)zone and just keep doing what I was doing."

Ultimate reaffirmation

Lockner is hitting .424 with two doubles and team-highs of five home runs and 18 home runs. He has five of his team's seven home runs on the season, despite playing in just 12 of Windsor's 14 games.

Lockner was hit by a pitch in his fifth plate appearance against Mesa Ridge, otherwise, who knows? He could have walked away with even a fifth home run in the mercy-rule shortened game.

Lockner has made an immediate impact with Windsor's varsity squad this spring. He's spending most his team in the three- and four-holes after also batting in the middle of the lineup at the junior varsity level a year ago.

Though no one should expect Lockner to all of a sudden start doing his best Babe Ruth impersonation when he steps to the plate, he's happy to admit a day like the one he had April 17 does a lot to reassure him that he is more than capable of excelling at the varsity level, just like he did at J.V.

"I definitely can go up to the plate with a lot of confidence, not be too nervous about it," Lockner said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can for my team."

Bobby Fernandez is The Tribune's sports feature writer. Reach him at (970) 392-4478, by email at bfernandez@greeleytribune.com or on Twitter @BobbyDFernandez. Listen to him at 11:35 a.m. each Tuesday and 6:35 p.m. each Wednesday on 1310 KFKA.

The Experience

» The Experience is a monthly column by The Tribune’s sports feature writer Bobby Fernandez. The column runs every four weeks and looks at a sporting event from the perspective of a fan, athlete, coach, or another unique figure. If you would like to pitch an idea, email Bobby at bfernandez@greeleytribune.com.