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Constanza making noise with Triple-A Gwinnett
G-Braves outfielder Jose Constanza scores from second base during the first inning of Monday's game against the Syracuse Chiefs at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.

LAWRENCEVILLE - Jose Constanza is a crowd pleaser.

Whether it's his trademark siren noise and matching sound from the public address system to open the game and get the fans on their feet at Coolray Field, or his hand shake he does with his Triple-A Gwinnett Braves teammates, everyone is on board with what he brings to the team.

And on the field, the left-handed Constanza is a scrappy lead-off hitter, who recently went on a 12-game hitting streak.

Entering Monday's series against Syracuse, he was hitting .345 with almost identical numbers against left handers (.345 avg.) and right handers (.344 average).

Even after being held out of Saturday's game against the Durham Bulls, he responded with a double and the G-Braves' only run in a 2-1 loss to the Bulls in the series finale Sunday.

In the outfield, the fleet-footed native of the Dominican Republic is just as valuable as he serves as a vacuum for fly balls.

"He's the kind of player you love to have on your team," said Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage. "And the kind of guy you hate to see on the other team."

The next logical step for Constanza, a nine-year minor league journeyman, is to try and crack the roster with the big league team in Atlanta.

Even though he hasn't played in the bigs yet, his career has certainly picked up steam, including being regarded as one of the top prospects in the Cleveland Indians' organization with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers last year.

Gwinnett's speedy outfielder is a career .292 hitter, including back-to-back seasons above .300 now at the Triple-A level.

"I'd say he's certainly on the right track," Brundage said. "Now he's just got to maintain where he's at.

"He doesn't need to have 10 good games and then two off."

"Playing in the big leagues has been my life-long dream," Constanza said with a grin, which was translated
to English by an interpreter.

However, cracking the roster in Atlanta will be quite an accomplishment if Constanza makes it happen considering the depth of outfielders available in the organization.

After an oblique injury last month, Nate McLouth is now back in the lineup for Atlanta.

Jordan Schafer filled in adequately during McLouth's absence and rehab stint with Gwinnett.

Also, Matt Young is an equally valued prospect as Constanza, and Stefan Gartrell has been swinging a hot bat for the G-Braves.

"I really don't think about the competition with the outfield spots," Constanza said. "I just do what I can to help the team and hopefully my skills will translate to the majors."

Brundage says what is intriguing about Constanza's skill set is his speed.

Once he gets on base, it becomes a constant cat-and-mouse game with the opposing team's pitcher looking to keep him from stealing and getting into scoring position.

Constanza says that he appreciates Brundage's coaching style because Brundage uses Constanza's ability to steal by routinely using hit-and-run plays when Constanza gets on base.

In addition to his 18 stolen bases this season and .422 batting average this month, Constanza was the International League Player of the Week for the week ending June 11.

"Jose can put so much pressure on the other team," Brundage said. "You can't coach speed."

Constanza points his finger to the fact that he's hitting fastballs much better this season as a reason for his surge.
Twice this month, he's come up with four-hit games, including June 10 at Toledo and then again just two days later on June 12 at Indianapolis. Away from Coolray Field, Constanza is hitting .402 this season.

"My main goals are to make contact, use my speed to my advantage and play good defense."


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