Cobie Vance continues to quietly lead baseball

Cody Estremera

When coach Brad Bohannon arrived at the Capstone, he knew he would have an experienced infield, but he had to make some changes to make room for starting shortstop Jett Manning’s glove. He moved Chandler Avant to second, placing Cobie Vance, who had been the starting second baseman for the last two years. 

To someone who isn’t around the team very much, the transition has been seamless. He has made a couple of highlight reel plays look routine.

“I put in a lot of work, still to this day,” Vance said. “I was telling Brian Sharpe, Missouri’s first baseman, ‘man, I’m still getting balls that I’ve gotten before. I’m still getting hops, and different plays that I’ve had before.’ Everyday I’m kind of learning something different. It’s still going to be a process throughout the whole year.”

When he found out that he would be making the transition to the hot corner, he texted former Vanderbilt third baseman Will Toffey and current Florida third baseman Jonathan India to see how to play the position better, and become one of the better defensive players in the SEC.

Left-handed pitcher Dylan Duarte saw Vance improve during the fall and through the 37 games he’s played this year.

“Cobie has great baseball instincts,” Duarte said. “He makes plays that – to a lot of people – are pretty crazy plays. He just brings that confidence. You just know that you have a rock at third base. He’s going to bring a good energy and have quality at bats every game.”

Along with the move to third, Vance has stepped up as leadoff hitter for most of the year. 

“Just going into the season, I felt really confident in him getting on base,” Bohannon said. “You can read all the sabermetrics and lineup construction and all that, but I feel like that’s just common sense. That leadoff batter is going to get a couple more at bats over the course of a season than everybody else, and we’d really like to start off a game by somebody getting on base. Going into the year we were very confident about Cobie getting on base.”

Vance is hitting .320 this season, which is second on the team, leads the team in hits with 47 and has scored the second most runs on the team with 28. 

He has shown flashes for hitting with power this season. He has 10 extra base hits this season, including two home runs, which is one less than his career high. 

“My role really isn’t to hit for power; it’s just to get on base anyway possible,” Vance said. “I always say that I would like for my power numbers to show up. I just try to take what guys give me. If they throw something that I can put a really good swing on and try to hit it out, I’ll try. But I’m alright with it [his power numbers] not being too high.”

The transition to leadoff also has helped his patience at the plate. He has 24 walks this season, which is second on the team. He is also one away his career high. 

“It makes me be a little more patient. I’ve really gotten myself out a lot in the last couple of years, and now I’m working more 2-1, 3-1 counts, so I’ve got more walks obviously. I just feel like it’s helping the team see pitches and stuff. It’s a pretty good role for me.”

With a veteran team, leaders need to be vocal. They can’t just lead by example. Vance said he learned how to be a leader by watching former Alabama pitcher Thomas Burrows.

“This weekend [the Missouri series] DD [Duarte], he threw really well, it just didn’t go his way. A fly ball to center field was misplayed and he was obviously upset. I just told him ‘hey, you’re going to be right back in that role. I still believe in you no matter what.’ Just instill that I believe in guys.”