Tri-City ValleyCats center fielder Andrew Aplin
has a knack for making a positive first impression.
As a freshman at Arizona State in 2010, he hit .337 with a .468 on-base percentage in 89 at-bats for a Sun Devils team that reached the College World Series.
This season, he arrived in Troy, N.Y., as the Houston Astros' fifth-round pick and announced his presence with authority, hitting .391 with 14 runs scored in his first 15 games. The ValleyCats have also been hot: the team had an 11-game winning streak that ended Wednesday, but still found itself tied with Brooklyn for the league's best record at 13-4.
"I like to win. I hate losing," said Aplin. "It means nothing to have a good day if we don't come out and win."
On Tuesday, Aplin played a large role in extending Tri-City's winning streak to 11 games. With the team trailing, 2-0, entering the ninth inning, he was hit by a pitch and came in to score the first run. After the ValleyCats batted around, he found himself at the plate again, driving in the inning's seventh run with a single to left.
Aplin followed that base hit with two stolen bases before being stranded when the inning ended. The thefts, his 10th and 11th of the season in 12 attempts, signaled a continued evolution in the approach of a player who swiped 18 bags in 27 attempts in 146 collegiate games.
"Being a center fielder, being in pro ball, you have to have a little bit of ability to steal bases, get on base," said Aplin. "So coming here, I just decided I was going to do that. Plus at Arizona State, I had first-rounder Deven Marrero, I had a lot of bats behind me, so they could kind of knock me in here and there. Coming here I had to make that decision."
In addition to his newfound success on the basepaths, Aplin brings defensive aptitude to the Astros organization. Despite handling the ball extensively in college, recording 290 putouts and 14 assists, he was charged with just one error in his three seasons at Arizona State, a "little miscommunication" with the right fielder in a game against Oregon midway through his junior season.
He has recorded three outfield assists in his first 15 games as a professional.
"I think just slowing the game down, not trying to do too much," he said of the approach that so drastically limits his miscues. "As an outfielder, you just have to get the ball in as fast as you can and as accurate as you can. Try not to give up those extra bases here and there from throwing and missing cutoffs."
With things going well in the team win column and his individual stat line, Aplin has continued to focus on the really tough stuff: adjusting to the lifestyle of a professional baseball player.
"Just always baseball, baseball, baseball. It's a job now instead of just going out there having fun playing. It's more of a career now," he said. "You don't have school to focus on, so it's pretty much baseball all the time. That's what you have to focus on. That's your job."
Power's back on: The State College Spikes did not hit a home run until Samuel Gonzalez went deep against Batavia on Tuesday in the 16th game of the season. After three more home runs at Tri-City on Wednesday, State College is now on pace for 18 home runs this season. Since the team entered the league in 2006, the fewest round-trippers by an NYPL team is Williamsport's 17 the same year. Current Pirates outfielder Alex Presley tied for the lead on that team with three home runs.
Let's play two: Batavia beat Jamestown on Saturday, 5-4, in 17 innings. It was the league's longest game since Vermont topped Lowell by an identical 5-4 score in 18 innings on July 28, 2008. In that game, current Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks batted ninth for the Spinners, finishing 1-for-7 with three strikeouts. Athletics catcher Derek Norris, then a Nationals prospect, hit fourth for the Lake Monsters and went 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and five walks.
Staying together: With more than 3,000 miles between them, the Oakland Athletics and Vermont Lake Monsters are farther apart geographically than any other parent club and affiliate, but that didn't stop the teams from extending their Player Development Contract for two more years, through the end of the 2014 season.
Big night with the bats: The Aberdeen IronBirds set four franchise records in a 21-7 rout of the Staten Island Yankees on Tuesday: most hits in a game (20), most runs in a game (21), most runs in an inning (11) and most total runs scored in a game (28). The 6,904 fans who saw the game at Ripken Stadium were also a team record.