ATLANTA—Outfielder Robby Hefflinger struggled during his two-month stay at high Class A Lynchburg this season, hitting just .228/.336/.390 in 123 at-bats and earning a demotion to low Class A Rome, his home base for most of the previous two years.
"My dad always taught me that when things are going tough to stick it out," Hefflinger said. "My dad grew up on a farm and he's always been tough, hard-nosed. I realized I was blessed to be playing, regardless of where I was, and I looked at the situation as it just wasn't my time to be in Lynchburg."
Instead of hanging his head, Hefflinger made the most of the situation. The 22-year-old joined a Rome club that posted the worst first-half record (18-52) in the minors, and he helped key an impressive turnaround.
Hefflinger hit .284/.362/.483 with 12 home runs in 296 at-bats and Rome went 44-24 to win the South Atlantic League's Southern Division title. They took eventual-champion Asheville to the limit—three games—in the first round of the playoffs.
"You could see the light come for him on this season," Rome manager Randy Ingle said. "And not only was he outstanding on the field, he really helped in the clubhouse and off the field. He's a natural leader, and that became obvious as the season went on."
A seventh-round pick out of Georgia Perimeter JC in 2009, Hefflinger put together a strong showing in spring training to break camp with Lynchburg—but it wasn't until later in the season that he started to reap the rewards of his efforts.
"I think I started figuring out who I am as a player this year," Hefflinger said. "I learned a lot from our new hitting coordinator Don Long as well as from the other guys on our team . . . We were always talking about hitting and what pitchers were doing. (Rome third baseman Brandon) Drury was always on top of it, and that helped me get more into the game. That led to more success and more confidence, which created a positive cycle."
• Lynchburg won the Carolina League title by defeating Winston-Salem in four games in the finals. Shortstop Nick Ahmed earned MVP honors and capped his effort by going 4-for-5 in the deciding contest.
• Rookie-level Danville qualified for the Appalachian League playoffs but lost in the first round to the Elizabethton Twins.