Pawtucket’s season has only been finished for one week, but I’m putting Aaron Bates back to work. On Thursday night, I’ll be behind the mic for the University of Cincinnati’s football game at NC State (Aaron’s alma mater) and he’s agreed to be one of my spotters in the broadcast booth in Raleigh, NC.
It is the start of an off-season that will include considerable travel for the 26-year-old first baseman/outfielder.
“Let’s see, besides going to root for the Wolfpack against the Cincinnati Bearcats, I’ll probably go home to California for a few days,” Bates said. “I’d like to get there before the baseball season is over to see my buddy (Jeremy) Hermida play for Oakland. Also, my girlfriend’s family lives back there so we’ll go see them. Then I’ll relax and hang out for awhile before going to Puerto Rico.”
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Aaron has played in the Puerto Rican Winter League for the past several years and will suit up for the Criollos de Caguas for the second straight winter.
“I’ll head down there on October 19th or 20th,” Bates said. “I think the first game is on the 22nd of October, so I’ll go down there and stay through the end of the regular season and we’ll see how the playoffs go and stuff like that. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year with Boston, so I’m going to go down there and try to play well and see what happens.”
Aaron’s mother JoAnn is of Puerto Rican heritage, so Aaron is not classified as a foreign player. That makes him eligible to be traded in the Puerto Rican Winter League and although it does not appear on his Red Sox bio, Bates was actually swapped from Ponce to Caguas for Raul Casanova prior to last season. It worked out well as his new team advanced to the league championship series.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Bates said. “Management is good and I know a few of the guys that are coming back, so I’m excited to get down there and play.”
This past summer was Aaron’s first full season with Pawtucket, and he batted .240 with 12 HR and 54 RBI (.338 OBP/.368 SLG). He earned rave reviews from the coaching staff for working hard on swing changes, even if that meant taking a temporary step backward in hopes of taking two steps forward.
“I think I prepared as well as anyone,” Aaron told me. “Being consistent is always the key with me – both day-to-day and over a long stretch of time. It’s hard not to get result-oriented obviously, but it’s easy not to make any changes when bloop singles are falling in and line drives aren’t getting caught.”
Bates also had to switch from first base to the outfield once Lars Anderson was promoted from Double-A Portland, and I thought he showed considerable improvement defensively as the season progressed.
“I appreciate that – that means that I didn’t look like a first baseman playing left field,” Bates said. “That’s the goal – to go our there and do a serviceable job. I talked to Torey about that. If a scout were to come to a game, would he say that I’m a first baseman playing outfield or an outfielder. That’s the big goal. I think I can do a good job out there. Obviously, I still feel I’m a first baseman and that’s my best position, but the more positions you can play the better.”
Unlike 2009, Bates did not get a promotion to Boston this season, but he says it was still a very enjoyable year.
“It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had off of the field,” Aaron said. “Chad Paronto kept things loose in the clubhouse – he’s probably one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. Torey was great – he’s a great manager – and Gerald Perry was awesome as a hitting coach. It’s hard to measure success at the Triple-A level by wins and losses because of all of the player movement, but I think it was one my most enjoyable seasons in the clubhouse.”
I hope he enjoys himself in the broadcast booth this Thursday night.
Even when his alma mater loses.
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