BRADENTON -- Wherever Matt Hague goes, Matt Hague hits.
Whether wielding an aluminum bat while with the University of Washington and Oklahoma State or living with a host family while playing in the storied Cape Cod League or making franchise history with Pittsburgh's Triple-A team, Hague has hit.
It's a trend that hasn't stopped this spring in Bradenton, where Hague has become one of the Pirates' most talked-about prospects.
While fans are still clamoring to see Starling Marte patrolling PNC Park's outfield and salivating at the thought of hard-throwing first-round
draft picks Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole anchoring the same rotation, the 26-year-old Hague has done what he does best.
"I try to get in as much as work in as I can, and I'm trying to stay consistent," he said prior to Thursday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays at McKechnie Field. "Whatever my focus is, I just try and do that."
A native of Bellevue, Wash., Hague was recruited to play at Washington because of his arm instead of his bat.
That all changed when he hit two runs in his first college game.
"Pretty much after that," Hague said, "I played every day in college."
Guess what he also did?
Hague batted .419 as a freshman, .381 as a sophomore and .353 as a junior. He transferred to Oklahoma State as a senior and supplemented his typical buffo batting average (.360) with some power, as he hit 12 home runs in 67 games.
Nothing has changed since the Pirates chose him in 2008. Hague hasn't hit lower than .293 in any of his five minor-league stops, and he batted .309 while leading the International League with 165 hits.
He became the first Indianapolis Indian to win the league's hit title since 1989 (Junior Noboa).
"Double-A, you see a lot more guys throw really hard. They don't necessarily have the best command, but they still have the stuff," Hague said, referring to how he adapted from one level of the minors to another. "Triple-A is usually older guys who are around the dish. Some guys throw hard. I think it's really adjusting off what you see."
He has adjusted fine this spring. Hague entered Thursday's game batting .429, and he hit this third home run Tuesday off Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester.
"I played against him while I was in high school, so I've always had my eyes on him," Hague said. "I've always looked up to him. ... It gives you a little confidence, but at the same time, it is spring training. It's pretty fun, though."
That also sums up Hague's spring.
"His bat, obviously that's the tool that's shown up for him throughout his minor-league career," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's showing up now. ... He's given us good at-bats pretty much consistently throughout the spring."
The tool Hague also is trying to utilize this spring is his glove. Primarily a first baseman, Hague has seen time at third base during Grapefruit League games in an attempt to perhaps land a bench role on the 25-man roster.
Hague hopes to make the trip north, but he knows it's out his control. Wherever he ends up, however, there is a good chance he'll be hitting.
"I just want to go out there," he said, "and show them what I can do."