Jamie McOwen hopped on the High Desert team bus and was in the middle of yet another phone interview about his eye-popping hitting streak when he abruptly stopped talking.
"I'm sorry," McOwen said after a few seconds. "These guys are trying to distract me."
Yeah, good luck with that. The Seattle Mariners' high Class A prospect has been unflappable during his streak that stood at 45 games entering the Mavericks' game at Modesto on Friday night.
"It's something I'm having fun with," McOwen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "I'm not going to make it a burden or not talk about it. When it ends, it ends. But right now, it's going good, so I'm having a great time with it."
The streak, which began May 10, was the eighth longest in minor league history. It's also the best since Waco's Roman Mejias hit in 55 straight in 1954. McOwen still has a long way to go to break the record, which is 69 by Wichita's Joe Wilhoit in 1919. The second-best in the minors is Joe DiMaggio's 61-game run with San Francisco in 1933, but McOwen's not even considering any of that _ yet.
"Right now, I'm pretty much just thinking about the next game every day," said the 23-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder who was a sixth-round draft pick out of Florida International in 2007.
McOwen also doesn't mind talking about the streak, even when he might be down to his last at-bat in a given game.
"I make sure none of my teammates walk around on eggshells with me," he said. "If I don't get a hit in my first two at-bats, they'll go, 'Oh, hurry up. You better get one soon because you might only have one more at-bat left.' It keeps me loose and it helps me out with it, if anything else."
He also hasn't given in to any superstitions, such as wearing the same socks or underwear during his run.
"I use the same bat, but I wouldn't call that a superstition, the equipment I use for a game," McOwen said. "I don't want to blame it on anything else if it ends besides myself or the pitcher that I face."
He has become increasingly popular during the last week or so, fielding several interview requests and even appearing on ESPN.
"The past five days have been pretty crazy," he said, "but you can't let the pressure get to you."
McOwen, who bats third in the lineup, broke the California League record a few weeks ago when he hit in his 36th straight game.
"I've never seen anything like it before," High Desert manager Jim Horner said. "He's a good kid and he's handling it well. He's a line-drive hitter that has a knack for finding the ball with the bat and finding a hole. It hasn't been just tiny hits. He's been driving the ball."
The streak, during which McOwen has raised his average from .270 to .355, hasn't come without a handful of close calls, though. He has extended it seven times in his last at-bat, including three times when he was down to his last strike.
"There's quite a bit of luck involved, for sure," he said.
The latest scare came Tuesday night, when he was hitless until he slapped a broken-bat single through the left side of the infield in the eighth inning at San Jose.
"Our dugout went crazy," Horner said. "I laughed out loud and looked over and all of them were on the fence watching. Even in a 12-2 loss, they were in it and knew what was going on and pulling for him."
McOwen is hitting .398 with three homers, five triples, six doubles and 34 RBIs during the streak. He has also struck out just 24 times in 181 at-bats, a huge improvement from when he fanned 103 times in 490 at-bats last season. McOwen also has a hit in 62 of 70 games he has played this season.
"I have a real good hitting coach, Tommy Cruz, who widened my feet out a little bit around the time the streak started, and that's helped a lot," McOwen said. "I started swinging at less balls and swinging at more strikes."
Horner said McOwen's new stance has cut down on the movement of his hands, legs and body at the plate.
"It's just unbelievable that he's gone this long," Horner said.
McOwen got a day off Thursday and has received a handful of breaks during the streak as part of Horner's outfield rotation.
"I think the only thing I worry about when I give him a day off is I can't use him," Horner said with a laugh. "I'd hate to be the guy who says, 'I need you to pinch run in the ninth,' and then that's it."
The Mariners routinely check in with Horner about the streak, and McOwen hopes each hit helps get him closer to his ultimate goal.
"You just hope every day that you wake up and do something to impress them," he said. "That's just part of the dream on your way to the big leagues. When you wake up, that's what you're thinking about, how you're going to get there."