Detroit makes cars. Florida produces oranges, Silicon Valley microchips and Idaho potatoes.
The southeast corner of Virginia produced five first-round picks between 1997 and 2005 in the Twins' Michael Cuddyer (1997), the Mets' David Wright (2001), the Rays' B.J. Upton (2002), the Diamondbacks' Justin Upton (2005) and the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman (2005). Plus, Orioles' third baseman Mark Reynolds, who was Arizona's 16th-round pick in 2004.
|David Wright had a career high 161 strikeouts last year. (Getty Images)|
No other area of the country is producing major-league strikeouts at such an assembly-line pace.
What are they teaching these guys by the Virginia sea, anyway?
"I don't know," Cuddyer, 32, and an outfielder who fans at a reasonable rate (93 times in 675 plate appearances in '10), said this spring, chuckling. "Swing for the fences, I guess.
"Don't think I didn't let them know about it this offseason. I looked up one day last year and we were one through three in the National League in strikeouts -- I think it was Reynolds, Upton and Wright."
Virginia, friends, is not just for lovers anymore.
It's for whiffers, too.
Of the nine major leaguers who whiffed the most in 2010, four come from what formerly was known as the Tidewater region of Virginia, and now is called Hampton Roads:
Reynolds led the National League (and the majors) with 211. Wright ranked seventh with 161. Justin Upton was ninth at 152. And in the American League, Justin's brother, B.J., ranked second at 164.
Reynolds' prodigious K totals are well known. He set a major-league record in 2008 (204), then broke it in 2009 (223). He was on his way to breaking it again last year, but he missed some games in September with a sore hand. However, for the season, he did strike out a career-high 42.3 percent of his at-bats.
But Wright, 28, wasn't this much of a strikeout threat until the past two seasons. His 161 whiffs last summer were a career high. And before 140 in '09, he had never fanned more than 118 times in a season.
You bet the Virginia boys heard about it from Cuddyer when they bumped into each other back home over the winter.
"Michael's that guy," Justin Upton, still only 23, said. "He's the oldest out of the group. He's always ragging on us about something.
"It's all in good fun."
It is. And good thing, for the most part, these guys don't necessarily take Cuddyer -- or themselves -- too seriously.
"I thought it was pretty humorous," said Wright, who joked that what they learned back home is a twist on Cuddyer's "Swing for the fences."
"All or nothing," Wright continued. "You don't get to the big leagues by taking. I guess you hit a home run, or at least attempt to."
All or nothing may have helped get them to the big leagues, and it may have helped earn those big-money contracts.
But things change. Circumstances can become extenuating.
With Wright, it's no coincidence that his strikeout totals have dramatically increased since the Mets moved into Citi Field in 2009. A notorious pitcher-friendly park that swallows home runs whole, Wright bashed 63 over the Mets' final two seasons in Shea Stadium. Then he hit 10 in '09, the club's first season in Citi Field.
Virginia's exports are richly talented. Wright has been selected to All-Star teams five times, Justin Upton and Zimmerman once each. Wright, Cuddyer, both Uptons and Reynolds have helped lead their teams into the playoffs.
But, wow. Cuddyer and Zimmerman (only 98 punchouts in 603 plate appearances in '10) better be wary of guilt by association.
"We've always been taught to hit the ball with authority," Justin Upton said. "If you're going to hit for power, strikeouts are going to happen.
"But you can still cut down on your strikeouts."
Through various methods, all of them -- the Uptons, Wright and, particularly, Reynolds -- will work on that in 2011.
For Reynolds, especially, it has become a mission.
In his first season with Baltimore, he's determined not only to avoid striking out 200 times for a fourth consecutive season, but to rein in the punchouts to a manageable total. Reynolds, who delivered a 44-homer season to the Diamondbacks in '09 and socked 32 last year, said this spring that the cartoonishly high strikeout totals bother him "a lot," especially as he matures and hungers to become a better hitter.
"I don't like punching out 200 times a year," Reynolds said.
His goal in 2011 is to become a "smarter" hitter without becoming a Punch-and-Judy hitter. Through Thursday, with the Orioles narrowly missing their first 5-0 start since 1970 this week, Reynolds has yet to go deep and has fanned in five of 18 plate appearances.
Of course, there are far worse ways to make outs than by fanning, which, for one thing, sure beats massive quantities of grounding into the ol' 6-4-3 double play.
But what are the odds, not only that six kids growing up within a 20-mile radius in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach would become impact major-leaguers, but that four would be dotted so high atop the game's strikeout charts?
There are so few degrees of separation here that Justin Upton's 10th-grade English teacher was Claudia Rente -- who a few years later would become Mrs. Michael Cuddyer.
And the local legend that he once promised to make a big purchase for her, Justin said, is true.
"She was one of my favorite teachers," Upton said. "We were joking in class, and one day I said, 'When I make my first million dollars, I'll buy you a car.' "
So did he?
"No," Upton said, laughing. "Michael took care of that."
Same way Cuddyer made sure to let his Virginia baseball brothers know that they've been distinguishing themselves a little too much in the game's strikeout charts.
Seattle produces coffee, Iowa corn ... maybe southeast Virginia could shift from strikeouts to, say, alternative energy?