The focus of the second New York-Penn League Notebook this season was Tri-City ValleyCats outfielder Andrew Aplin. Houston’s fifth-round pick in this year’s draft, he came to the New York-Penn League following a successful three-year career at Arizona State. He hasn’t stopped hitting since he arrived in Troy, leading the league in batting average (.388), on-base percentage (.495), OPS (1.107), and stolen bases (14) through his first 25 games.
I spoke with Aplin when Tri-City visited Lowell recently. We talked about his fast start, how his game has changed since he became a professional, and his brief acting career.
You hit the ground running when you were a freshman at Arizona State. You got off to a really good start there. You’ve done the same thing here. Is that the sort of person you are? You just adjust well to new challenges?
It’s difficult, definitely, the new atmosphere. I like the competition. Being the new guy competing with the older guys just gives you a little drive and competitiveness to go out there and perform every day.
Coming into professional ball, what was your biggest concern with the transition?
I’d say probably just dealing with the lifestyle. Just always baseball, baseball, baseball. It’s a job instead of just going out there having fun, playing, it’s more of a career now. Being watched by a lot more people throughout the organization, and I’d probably say that 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.
You’ve got a former college teammate here with you. Does it make it any easier for the two of you guys to have a familiar face to look to when times are tough?
Yeah, the transition coming here with him made it a lot easier decision. We were roommates in college – me, him and Deven Marrero – so now we’re roommates again. It makes it a lot easier coming to a new team having somebody that I already know and not having to meet anybody new and fresh.
On the field, as a player, how would you describe yourself?
I’d say a competitor. I like to just go out and compete. I like to win. I hate losing. It means nothing to have a good day if we don’t come out and win.
So you’re the kind of guy who can go 0-for-4, but if the team comes away with the win you’re happy with it?
Yeah, yeah, definitely.
I noticed you’re stealing a lot more bases since you came to Tri-City. When you got drafted, did you make a decision that you wanted to try to do that?
Yeah, being a centerfielder, being in pro ball, you have to have a little bit of ability to steal bases, get on base. So coming here, I just decided that 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.
Correct me if I’m wrong, the stats that I looked at said you only made one defensive error in your three seasons there.
Yeah, one error. It was in Oregon, I still remember it. Just a little miscommunication between me and the rightfielder, got charged with the error for it, so that’s how it goes.
How do you avoid that? You see a lot of guys, they make a bad throw, they think they can do it they can’t, they overrun a ball or something. How do you avoid making those kind of simple errors that other guys might make?
I think just slowing the game down, not trying to do too much. As an outfielder, you kind of 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. So I’d say just trying to hit your cutoff and just trying not to do too much.
You were drafted in 2009. Did you come close to signing then? Did you give serious thought to it?
Arizona State was always a dream for me to go. Always grew up watching them on TV, the College World Series. I lived there for a couple years and I grew up watching them, so when it came down to that time it just had to be life-changing money, and once I didn’t get that it was pretty easy to just go and start my career there.
And then you guys went to the College World Series your freshman year, right?
Yeah, yeah, it was really exciting.
That must’ve been like a dream come true. First year there…
ASU always has this tradition: if you don’t go to Omaha, it’s a bad year, so the expectations were high. It was just an exciting time.
What was your Draft day like this year, where you knew you had kind of come to the end of the road?
It was exciting, knowing a lot of other people that were getting drafted too, we all played together for the three years at ASU. It was exciting for my parents and me, just waiting for my name to be called. And then seeing all the guys that I played with go. It was really exciting.
And then this year, before that, you had about a week or so once the loss to Arizona ended the season. What kind of stuff did you do during that week?
Tried to spend as much time [as possible] with my family. I live in Arizona, they live in California, so I only got to see them on weekends every couple months, so I tried to just spend as much time with them. Relax, try to take some weight off my legs for a little bit before I had to come out here and start a whole new season.
So just kind of chill out and don’t do too much.
Chill out, get some work in, but try not to do too much.
Did you get your degree from ASU?
I still have two semesters left.
Is that something you’re planning on going back to that after?
Yeah, I’ll probably take a year or two off just to focus on this for now, and then I’ll go back and get it completed.
I noticed you had an unusual middle name. It was one I’d never seen before. I don’t even know how to say it.
I was curious where that came from.
My dad is Hawaiian, so it’s from his uncle in Hawaii. That’s his name, Ayhim, so that’s how I got it.
Does it have any special meaning or anything?
Not that I know of. It’s just been throughout the family, for a name, so that’s what I got for a middle name. My brother was the first-born boy, so he got my dad and my grandpa’s names, so he’s the third.
When I was researching, I saw you were in a commercial for ASU after your freshman year. I gotta ask you how many of those homerun trots you came up with on your own?
All of them. It was right there on the spot, took about ten, fifteen minutes. I was sitting in the clubhouse and they said, “Hey, you wanna make a commercial?” I was like, “Alright,” and then they told me what I had to do. That’s always fun to do that, so it wasn’t too hard.
I liked that part. I thought the acting needed a little bit of work.
[laughs] Yeah, little bit of work. Little bit.