Notable here is the timing. Hicks is a 24-year-old former first-rounder and top prospect, though his stock has fallen a bit. He had a rough season last year and entered Thursday hitting .167/.311/.238 in 2014. Worse yet, his mental preparation was publicly questioned by both his manager and assistant general manager before the game.
“He needs to start studying the game a little more,” manager Ron Gardenhire said (startribune.com), “studying the pitchers a little bit more, a little extra work in the outfield, doing drills and everything. Your whole game, the way you come to the ballpark and your approach to the game.”
“I think he gets preoccupied with some things about his game,” assistant GM Rob Antony said (startribune.com). “It's not that he's distracted by other things. I think it's more a matter of thinking about what he's going to do, but I don't think he always has a plan -- how that guy is going to pitch him, how he's going to be prepared for it.”
The walk-off single was the only hit of the game Thursday for Hicks, but it had to feel particularly good for him in light of the pre-game comments from a pair of his bosses. Well, that, in addition to getting a game-winning hit, which in and of itself must be pretty awesome.