Will Middlebrooks had a history at Dell Diamond even before he joined the Express last November.
The veteran third baseman, a native of Greenville, Texas, played two high school state tournaments and a North-South All-Star Game at the Round Rock ballpark before being a fifth-round draft pick in 2007.
“I had a lot of good memories on this field, so it’s pretty cool to be back,” Middlebrooks said. “My family is four and a half hours away and I have a lot of friends around. It’s a cool place for me to be.”
Despite missing nearly two months with a broken hand, the slugger is tied for the active team lead with 10 home runs and is fourth in RBI (27), seventh in average (.265) and eighth in hits (31).
Since his return, he has been on a tear, blasting the game-winning home run in his first game of the disabled list and leading Round Rock to a 3-2 win against New Orleans on June 1, a grand slam in the ninth inning against Oklahoma City on June 11 and had homers in three straight at-bats in wins against New Orleans and Memphis on June 16-17.
The Express ended an 11-game, 12-day road trip with a 6-5 record, the first winning record the team has had on a road trip this season.
“There is the curve of getting back in the swing of things,” Middlebrooks said. “The road trip was about just playing consistently and trying to get my feet back under me. But my approach at the plate hasn’t changed at all."
Middlebrooks passed on going to Texas A&M to enter the draft early and made his major league debut in 2012 with the Boston Red Sox. He started eight postseason games and helping the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013.
Following an injury-plagued 2014 season, he moved to the San Diego Padres in 2015 and was the Opening Day starter at third base, but was moved to Triple-A in July and spent the rest of the year in the minors.
Another injury-filled season came in 2015 with the Milwaukee Brewers and made just eight starts at the big league level.
The injury this season was yet another setback as Middlebrooks had established himself as the regular third baseman and spot in the heart of the order over the first part of the season.
“When he came back from his injury, he got hot as a pistol and picked up where he left off,” Express Manager Jason Wood said. “He continued to drive in runs and was hitting home runs. He figured out a few things and got right back at it.”
Third base in the big leagues is already full with veteran Adrian Beltre and 23-year-old former first round pick Joey Gallo, the staples at the hot corner for the Rangers. But with a little more time and some more hot hitting, Middlebrooks might find himself back in the major leagues.
“When this guy walks in the door every day, he’s ready to play,” Wood said. “He’s got a smile on his face and he’s a great professional. He wants to get back to the big leagues and he’s doing the things he needs to do.”