CORPUS CHRISTI - Certainly, there are more dangerous occupations in the Coastal Bend than playing right field for the Corpus Christi Hooks.
But few may be more interesting.
Ask an aviator or sea captain who regularly traverses the Bermuda Triangle and he'll likely be matter-of-fact when asked about potential peril.
Andrew Aplin takes such a tack when talking about his job.
"You have to play in a little bit and consider the ball is going to travel from the right-field pole to the left-field pole. Anything hit your way is going to fly that way," Aplin explained. "Sometimes, when the ball's up there for a while, you just don't know how it's going to spin down.
"I was a little timid my first couple of games out there. Once we had some live BP I was able to take balls out there and it got better; I became more comfortable."
Did he ever. And, in a summer when the night time southeasterly winds off Corpus Christi Bay typically run in the 15-25 miles-per-hour range.
It's not a stretch to characterize Aplin as a Whataburger Field right-field maven. He's laid out for sinking liners and tumbled over bullpen fences. He's made back-to-the-infield lunging catches and critical adjustments on what look to be routine fly balls… at least making them appear routine.
The Whataburger Field right-field greats like Preston Tucker, Jake Goebbert, Drew Locke and Hunter Pence did that, too.
And Aplin has come up throwing. He has 10 total assists, good for third in the Texas League.
But his initial impression of Whataburger Field was as a hitter, formed by organizational fact-based legend, at Lancaster of the High-A California League.
"The first thing I heard was, 'the wind blows straight in. It's tough to hit home runs if you're a lefty.' Coming from Lancaster, it's a complete 180 for lefties."
Though he's not a prototypical three-hole hitter, Aplin holds the spot for skipper Keith Bodie these days. His 40 runs batted in lead current Hooks players.
Aplin was an offensive stalwart for the JetHawks a year ago. He led the California League in RBI's (107) and was second in runs scored (102) and walks (83). Three of his career-best nine home runs were grand slams. Aplin walked 20 more times than he struck out (83-63). In his professional career, those totals are an impressive 163-141.
But as disciplined at the plate and skilled in the outfield as Aplin is, his calling card is hustle.
"He plays his a-- off," a pro scout said during Corpus Christi's 6-0 July homestand vs. Springfield and Tulsa.
"It comes from not being the biggest or the strongest," Aplin said. "It came down to effort so I could stay on teams. Growing up with my dad as the coach until high school helped me out. He wasn't afraid to make an example out of me. They knew that if he was yelling at his own son, they'd better hustle, too.
"You can't fool dad."
Aplin's father, Ed Jr., worked in Arizona during the mid-late '90s. Living in the Mesa-Gilbert area ultimately proved to be a life-shaping experience for Andrew, though he didn't quite realize it then.
"When I was five, six, seven, we'd go watch the (Arizona State) Sun Devils," Aplin recalled. "From the start, I liked the hard-nosed, baggy-uniform, old-school look."
A family move back to California and prep success at Fairfield's Vanden High School put Andrew on Major League Baseball's radar. He was selected in the 33rd round of the 2009 draft by the Yankees after twice earning SCAC (Solano County Athletic Conference) MVP honors.
He decided pro ball could wait.
"Unless I got life-changing money, I was going to ASU," Aplin stated. "It was one of my dreams as a kid."
Arizona State, the program of Sal Bando, Rick Monday, Reggie Jackson, Larry Gura, Eddie Bane, Bob Horner, Oddibe McDowell, Hubie Brooks, Mike Kelly, Alvin Davis, Kevin Romine, Barry Bonds, Ian Kinsler, Paul Lo Duca, Dustin Pedroia, Andre Ethier, and Alan and Floyd Bannister. Legendary coaches Bobby Winkles, Jim Brock, and Pat Murphy. Five-time national champions.
Hard-nosed. Baggy uniforms. Old-school.
"It was the overall tradition of winning and winning the right way," Aplin said. "The number of draft picks and the number of players who go on to MLB. Players go there and learn. They explore and develop their talents."
Aplin enjoyed a trip to Omaha and the College World Series as a freshman, but that was the high-water mark for ASU in his three-year college career. His draft stock, however, improved considerably; the honorable mention All-Pac 12 selection was taken by Houston in the fifth round two years ago. Aplin closed the book on his college days having committed one error in 305 chances.
Impressive… and equipping, even though Tempe winds aren't quite as challenging as Corpus Christi's. A center fielder by trade, Aplin brings bonus speed and athleticism to right field at this level - as Pence did. But Pence was a right fielder who could play center. Aplin can go back and forth at a moment's notice.
And that's OK by him. Because what matters most is the team.
"Just being able to go out there and compete with a group of guys you enjoy doing it with. You're playing for them and they're doing their best for you. When it all clicks, that's the most fun."
Including the tending of Aplin's right-field acreage.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.