Phillippe Aumont has been playing baseball for a long time. As somebody who dedicates countless hours to his career of being a professional baseball player, it is obvious that he loves the game.
But it was not always his first love. Back when he was a kid growing up Gatineau, Quebec, a different sport piqued Aumont's interest.
"The first thing I got was a pair of skates, before I even got a baseball glove," Aumont said. "During the winters every day after school, it was all I was thinking all day was when can we get on the pond and play some pickup hockey."
It is no surprise Aumont came to love hockey. Gatineu is just fifteen minutes from Ottawa, and two hours from Montreal-two big market hockey cities.
"The Canadiens were my team for the simple fact that my dad is a huge fan. I grew up watching the Canadiens so I grew up watching hundreds and hundreds of games on TV with my dad," Aumont said.
There is also a homegrown NHL presence right in Aumont's hometown, which produced players such as All-Star Flyer's forward Daniel Briere and 2003 third round pick Alexandre Picard. But Aumont's favorite player as a youngster came from down Route 401, in Kitchener.
"[Scott Stevens] was a guy that put fear into you," Aumont said. "If he'd go in the corner and you're trying to get the puck, you better have your eyes up or he would crush you. And I mean, when you watch the game that's what you are looking for, you are always looking for big hits."
Growing up in such a hockey-crazed environment, Aumont and his friends used do what so many Canadian kids do in the winter-get out on the makeshift outdoor rink for pickup games.
"We play on an ice surface, but its all surrounded by snow, it wasn't a pond or anything," Aumont said. "It was just like handmade with water. It was shoveled and the snow was on the sides and that was the boards…we had no equipment, no helmets, no nothing. We played full contact, and that's how we played."
"[And] obviously, when somebody would be on the sides or whatever, and I could lay them out in the snow I'd do it for sure," Aumont added with laugh. "I hated playing defense. I'm really aggressive on the ice. I like to attack, I like to score goals, I like to create plays."
As he got older, his passion for hockey remained but it became tough for him to pursue the sport at a competitive level because of cost.
"Hockey is always an expensive sports as a kid. You grow out of your gear every year and we weren't rich or anything, we didn't have a whole lot of money," Aumont said.
So that's when baseball came in to play and commanded Aumont's spring and summer, while pickup hockey stuck as a winter pastime for him and his friends.
"My friends were playing home league baseball and that kind stuff, and I told my dad 'you know, instead of going to the summer camp, I want to play baseball,'" Aumont said. "I had a buddy of mine who lived actually close to me and we went to school together. We played together in my first year and had a great time so every year I kept going back and we played together…I always had a good arm, I always had a good sense of what to do on the field, where to be positioned, I loved hitting, I was a good hitter. I started having good years playing baseball and I think it just got me towards playing baseball and I loved it and I still love it."
"[We started] in late spring when the snow was gone and I could go out in the backyard and throw with my dad and buddies, but in the winters it was nothing but hockey," Aumont said.
Even as Aumont's baseball career blossomed and took him to Wisconsin and Tennessee while in the Seattle Mariners organization, and now to the Philadelphia area, one thing has not changed. He still finds a way to get back on the ice every winter with his friends back in Canada and play some pickup hockey at some point.
And as a professional athlete, playing hockey in the offseason has something more to offer Amount in addition to seeing all of his childhood friends. It also gives him an opportunity to work out his legs and stay in shape over the winter.
"This offseason I worked out hard in Florida, and when I went out to Canada for Christmas I got on the ice and I'm like 'ok, I know I'm in shape right now I know I can do it.'" Aumont said. "My first shift I came back on the bench and I was like 'oh my god, I am dying right now what is going on my legs are absolutely crushed.' That's where you see that [despite] everything you did at the field, there were still some areas that could still be attacked and I think worth skating. If I get an opportunity to do it, I think I can reinforce the areas I am kind of working."
"If I stay safe and I'm cautious about what I'm doing and I take care of myself, you know, if I have all the equipment-which I do-and I protect myself, it's only for the better. I can get in shape. I skate a lot. We play for two hours, and two hours nonstop skating is not the easiest thing to do," Aumont said.
But whether it helps him get in shape or not, the importance hockey has to Aumont is relaxation, fun and getting to reminisce and spend time with friends doing what they have done for just about all their lives.
"Every time I go home and get a chance to put on a pair of skates and have fun with my buddies I take the time to do it," Aumont said. "It's always something I enjoy."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.