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BASEBALL

Drew Waters has a souvenir for life after hitting a three-run homer off Jacob deGrom

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Drew Waters never had a reason to save a broken bat until he played in a Storm Chaser game on July 27.

The Omaha outfielder broke his bat during an at-bat against Syracuse's Trevor May in the seventh. But five innings earlier, that bat provided one of the career highlights for the 23-year-old Waters — he hit a three-run homer off two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom.

"I plan on keeping it the rest of my life," Waters said.

It actually was one of two home runs hit off deGrom in the second inning that day. Since then, deGrom has made two starts for the New York Mets. He was dominant in Sunday's start, retiring the first 17 batters he faced, including 12 by strikeout.

But on July 27, the Chasers beat deGrom, thanks to those two homers. Brewer Hicklen led off the inning with a drive down the left-field line. Hicklen said the team found out the day before that it would face deGrom.

"It was kind of funny, the chatter in the clubhouse, everybody was talking about how nasty he is and seeing him on TV," Hicklen said last week. "It's really cool, I obviously respect what he's done. But when you get in the box, honestly, it's you versus that ball. It really doesn't matter who's throwing it. That's kind of the mindset I had."

Hicklen said before the game he actually watched a YouTube video of players who had hit homers off deGrom. That got Hicklen into the right frame of mind.

"Someone in the clubhouse before the game said that you're going to be on SportsCenter tonight if you strikeout or if you hit a home run," Hicklen said. "I don't know if it made SportsCenter, but I definitely got a lot of text messages from it."

Hicklen, who is closing in on a 20-20 season for the Chasers as he has 19 homers and 22 stolen bases, said it was difficult not to smile when he was rounding the bases. Waters, a switch-hitter batting left-handed, felt the same way as his three-run homer just cleared the fence.

"Usually you can hide a smile when you're running around the bases, but in that particular moment, I had a pretty big smile on my face," Waters said. "It's a little bit of a win-win situation because I don't think many people expect you to succeed against Jacob deGrom."

Waters' first month with the Chasers certainly has been a success. He was traded to the Royals organization on July 11 from Atlanta, which drafted him out of high school in 2017 as the 41st overall pick.

After the trade, Waters was assigned to Omaha where he, like Hicklen, is showing a blend of power and speed that makes him an attractive major league prospect. In 21 games since the trade, Waters is batting .325 with five homers, 11 RBIs, 18 runs scored and nine steals.

"Once I was traded to the Royals, it was a little bit of a fresh breath," Waters said. "Now I feel I'm getting back to the player I've always been and capable of being."

It was bittersweet for Waters to leave the Braves since he went to high school just outside the Atlanta area. But with the Royals' ongoing youth movement, Waters sees an opportunity.

Waters was hitting just .246 in 49 Triple-A games for the Braves before the trade. But he likes working with the coaches in the Royals organization and how they've been able to improve his game.

"Now I know what the struggles are and I know what my strengths are," Waters said. "I'm able to make adjustments without just making temporary fixes."

Waters went 8 of 24 (.333) during last week's home series with St. Paul. The Chasers now hit the road for the next 12 games beginning with a 6:05 p.m. game Tuesday at Toledo.

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