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ONE STEP CLOSER: Eric Aguilera

ONE STEP CLOSER:  Eric Aguilera

Los Angeles Angels / Arkansas Travelers (Class AA)

Aguilera-HeadShot643192Mequon, WI – Since playing for the Chinooks in 2012, Eric Aguilera has experienced as much success as any of the Chinook alums.  The hard-hitting first baseman from Illinois State was the top hitter (.369) during Lakeshore’s opening season and hasn’t let up since being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels (1027th overall pick in the 34th round of the 2013 MLB Draft).  In fact, many baseball observers would say he has succeeded expectations by finishing the 2015 season in Double A with the Arkansas Travelers and being selected as an organizational all-star in the Angel’s farm system for 2015.  Aguilera pounded out 17 home runs and knocked in 94 runs while hitting .327 for the High A Inland Empire 66er’s before earning the promotion to Arkansas and enters the 2016 season with a legitimate shot to compete for Double A and higher.  In three seasons, Aguilera has hit .303, belted 41 home runs, and registered 220 RBI in 322 games.  With an important season ahead, Aguilera remains appreciative of the support and encouragement he’s received through his time with the Chinooks and opened up with these insightful comments about his journey thus far:

1.   As a player, in order to continue to climb the ladder, you have to show that you can perform to what is expected of you on a day to day basis and every season.  Last year I had a very successful season in High A and was fortunate enough to get a promotion to AA at the end of the year.  Although numbers aren't always indicative of true performance, they do show that I struggled at that level.  AA is often noted as the level that separates players – if you can play and compete in AA, you can play in the MLB.  So for me this next year, I want to prove that I can continue to produce at that level, or wherever I may land next year, from an offensive and defensive standpoint. So right now I am currently spending my offseason in Normal, IL at Illinois State University training daily and continuing to work on my hitting and fielding.

2.  Honestly, I think that getting selected and then my first Minor League game are still my favorite moments. You work so long, put in countless hours, and sacrifice a ton to achieve a goal, really a dream, and then stepping onto the field for the first time is kind of surreal.  We had an away game and I can still remember having butterflies stepping into the batter’s box for the first time, and then actually ended up hitting my first MiLB home run that very same at bat.  That was pretty special for me.  This past fall I also got the opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League with and against some of the best prospects in Minor League baseball. That was a really fun experience that I will always remember.

3.  The best promotion has to be in Lake Elsinore, the affiliate of the San Diego Padres, where it’s the home of The Fastest Squirrel in the World.  He's gotten quite a bit of recognition in the past, so some of you may be familiar with him, but that first time you see it is a riot!

4. One of the most difficult parts about the Minor Leagues is the absolute grind that we must endure to make it through a season. It's a 140 game season with very limited off days.  Most weeks we are playing anywhere from 6-7 days a week with long travel on crowded buses and with undesirable resources.  People have this notion that it's this glamorous lifestyle where we are treated like kings.  Don't get me wrong – it's a dream come true and I truly enjoy playing the game I love for a living, but it's a lot tougher to survive in the game of baseball than people realize.  Seeing teammates get released is also tough. One of the best parts of this sport is that you meet a lot of great people that you spend countless hours with and form great friendships.  However in this profession nothing's ever guaranteed and it can end at any moment for any player.  There are never really the right words to say to someone you've spent several seasons with, who may never pick up a baseball again, and whose life just essentially changed for good.

As Chinook fans wait to see which former Chinook will be the first to reach the majors, many have their eyes on Aguilera.  Follow his progress this season at: 

http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=milb&player_id=643192#/career/R/hitting/2014/ALL

The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. The 22-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 140 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (KC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. For more information, visit www.northwoodsleague.com.