The hitting machine
Bob Maleks tireless work ethic has Spartans thinking of a Big Ten title
With a keen eye and a swift bat, Bob Malek has made a name for himself on the baseball field.
The junior right fielder raised eyebrows last season when he set MSUs single-season hits record at 88 and boasted a .427 average at the plate.
For the two-time All-American, winning is what matters most.
I just want to win, Malek said. Its a lot more fun to win than to get your personal stats up.
And thats exactly what the Spartans are doing this season - winning. MSU (14-3) is off to its best start since 1992, when the Spartans also started 14-3.
Right now Im excited for the season and focused on winning a Big Ten Championship, Malek said.
The Spartans havent won the Big Ten title since 1979.
Despite the teams newfound success, its hard to overlook Maleks personal success.
Malek is batting .467 with 35 hits. After 17 games last season, he had 29 hits.
But batting average and hits arent the only categories Malek led the Spartans in last season. He led the team in seven offensive categories in 2001 -average, hits, at-bats (206), runs (53), doubles (15), total bases (121) and slugging percentage (.587).
With such impressive numbers, one would think Malek knows something the rest of the baseball world doesnt. But no, he simply keeps it, well, simple.
Its hard enough to hit the ball the pitcher is throwing, he said. Its a battle. Its a one-on-one competition and I try to win every time.
Malek, a regular at batting cages, said it was his father who taught him baseball was a game of repetition.
John Salter, Maleks high school coach at Detroit Catholic Central, said the lesson of repetition translated into an advantageous plate patience.
He was very difficult to strike out and had good knowledge of the strike zone, Salter said. He could hit varsity pitching in 10th grade. Not many kids can do that.
From his first days in East Lansing, Malek impressed. As a freshman he led MSU with 58 RBIs and nine home runs, earning second-team All Big Ten honors.
But it wasnt just his bat that impressed Spartan manager Ted Mahan.
Hes got a major-league throwing arm, Mahan said. People cant take extra bases. Plus he goes and catches a lot of balls that most people wouldnt get to.
With Maleks arm in mind, Mahan moved his star outfielder from center to right this season.
Five games into the season, the move paid off. Clinging to a 11-10 ninth-inning lead against Charlotte, Malek threw out a 49er base runner attempting to stretch a single into a double.
I wanted to take my time and make a good throw, Malek said of the play. I got him by about three steps. Its a great thrill to come through in the clutch like that.
Call Mahan biased, but he believes Malek ranks among the nations best collegiate baseball players.
I think hes one of the best players in the country, Mahan said. When its all said and done at the end of the year, his statistics will match up with anybody.
Hes just a great player.