By David Krueger The Herald
One might think that after starting playing baseball in March and faced with the prospect of continuing to play through the end of summer, a player would get tired of the sport.
Not Aaron Avalos.
Avalos, a senior-to-be who plays baseball for Jackson High School — and for the Baden Baseball Club in the summer — is in his fifth-consecutive month of playing baseball.
And, he’s excited to keep going.
“It’s been busy,” Avalos said. “It’s been really fun. It’s busy every day but it keeps me doing something. For me, it’s always enjoyable, especially when you love the game. There’s no such thing as enough baseball.”
A shortstop for the Timberwolves, Avalos helped Jackson to a 12-10 record in his junior campaign. He was named to the All-Wesco 4A South first team as an infielder before starting his summer league with Baden, which finishes its season in early August.
Playing baseball has always been a preferred activity for Avalos. He hasn’t just been playing the sport for five months.
He’s been playing it for almost 14 years.
“I’ve been playing since I was 3 years old,” Avalos said. “My dad gave me a baseball and told me when I was young I would always hold a baseball or find something (to use as a) bat. I couldn’t stay away from the game.”
The trend has continued and expanded into the summer after his junior year of high school.
The summer league allows a player to develop their skillset, playing as many as 50-60 games over the course of the season, according to Jackson head coach Kirk Nicholson. The Baden team has played 61 contests since they began on May 22nd and have six left before the conclusion of the season on Aug. 3 at the Josh Dickerson Invitational Championship at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle.
“The truth is the more you play baseball the better you get at it,” Nicholson said. “Summer ball is truly just playing. There’s less practicing. When you play 50-60 more games you’re going to see that many more curveballs. You’re going to get used to hitting it.”
Said Avalos: “My batting will improve. Everything from the mental part of the game, to the physical part of the game, will improve.”
Nicholson said that about 34 of the 36 players in the Jackson baseball program play on summer teams. He believes one of the biggest differences — besides the high level of play — is the weather.
“High school baseball is 20 games in bad weather,” Nicholson said with a laugh. “We’ve got baseball weather right now.”
Avalos, a three-year starter for Jackson, said the other big difference is the level of competition.
“The big difference is really the competitiveness,” Avalos said. “The competition gets better as you get older. The pitchers are good. The hitters are really good. It’s a little bit different from high school but I like it.”
Nicholson thinks that unlike some other sports, such as football, baseball is a game that you can play every day for an extended amount of time — even a five-month span.
“You’re playing a fun game. It’s not like football where you’re getting physically beat up and knocked around,” Nicholson said. “Who doesn’t want to pick up a stick and hit?”
Another advantage of the long summer season is players aren’t impacted as much if they fall into a slump. While a five-game dip in the high school season could be the difference between a league title or missing the district tournament, in the summer there’s still plenty of time to right the ship.
“It’s more like pro baseball. One month of bad baseball doesn’t make you a bad team or a bad player,” Nicholson said. “In high school baseball, you have a bad five games, that’s a fourth of your season.”
Additionally, the summer leagues are a good time to get noticed by scouts. Nicholson said that there are usually more scouts at summer games than during the high school season because college programs aren’t playing.
It can add stress, Avalos said, seeing scouts from colleges at the games.
“It’s fun, but you always want to keep up your game all the time. You don’t know who’s watching,” said Avalos, who hopes to play in college. “You just ignore everyone around you and focus on the game.”
The latest www.baseballnorthwest.com poll had Avalos ranked at No. 42 in its Class of 2015 Washington Top Prospect List. The shortstop’s high school coach believes he’ll do enough to get noticed.
“You see a couple more guys in the stands that you want to impress,” Nicholson said. “This is the time that they watch. He’s good enough to play at the next level.”
Eventually, baseball will finally end for Avalos. High school football practices start on Aug. 20 and Avalos will switch from a middle infielder into a running back and linebacker for the Timberwolves.
While many of Jackson’s football players have spent time this summer in the weight room, Avalos’ baseball schedule has prevented him from participating in the team’s workout program.
But Timberwolves head football coach Joel Vincent isn’t too concerned about Avalos.
“I don’t think it really affects him much,” Vincent said. “He’s a really smart kid. He told me, ‘Coach, I’m really busy all summer with baseball, but come Aug. 20th I’m all yours.’
“He’s not one that we worry about.”