By Bill McCaughey
For the Fort Bend Star
After the Long Island Ducks finished batting practice last Thursday in Constellation Field, they retreated to the air-conditioned comfort of their clubhouse to cool off before the game started. All except for a solitary figure in right field who was running conditioning drills on his own.
David Aardsma was going through his work-out program that he hopes will give him one more shot in the Major Leagues. Aardsma was a key pitcher for the Rice Owls during their 2003 NCAA national championship season. He won two games and earned a save at the College World Series.
“Rice had a big impact on my life. I had a chance to go over there this week and see some of the people who have helped me a lot. I am still working on my degree in sports management. I have five classes to go and have been picking them off one at a time,” Aardsma said. “I would like to be involved in the development side of sports. I would like to develop a pitching staff program for an organization.”
Rice coach Wayne Graham had a large influence on Aardsma.
“I think the guys Wayne pushes the hardest, are the guys he knows can take it, and are the guys who he sees the talent in and does what he has to to get it out,” Aardsma said. “He pushed me really hard. We had a couple of behind-closed-door talks. Those talks changed my life. I will never forget them. He would tell you what you didn’t want to hear, but needed to hear. He changed my life. When we were holding up the NCAA championship trophy in 2003, Wayne looked at me and said, ‘We couldn’t have done this without you,’ that was a special moment.”
The San Francisco Giants made Aardsma the 22nd pick in the 2003 draft. He made the Major League roster in 2004 and made his debut in Minute Maid Park. Between 2004 and 2009 he pitched for the Cubs, White Sox and Red Sox before signing with Seattle.
In 2009, Aardsma was the closer for the Seattle Mariners, earning 38 saves with a 2.52 earned run average. He followed that up with 31 saves and a 3.44 earned run average in 2010. Unfortunately, Tommy John surgery and other injuries wiped out his 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2013, he pitched 22 innings in AAA before the Mets called him up where he pitched in 43 games and had a 4.31 earned run average. Aardsma spent 2014 and most of 2015 in the minors before the Atlanta Braves signed him. He pitched in 33 games for the Braves with a 4.70 earned run average, before spending part of the 2016 with the Buffalo Bison. In 2017, Aardsma signed with the Long Island Ducks and has six saves with a 1.28 earned run average.
Aardsma admits his fastball is not as fast as it once was, but feels he is a much smarter pitcher now.
“My off-speed is a lot better, and my slider is really good,” Aardsma said. “When I look at 2015 with the Braves, my WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) was just as good as my two years in Seattle. So, I think I can get another shot at the Majors.”
Looking back, Aardsma wouldn’t change a thing.
“I have a lot of great memories, and not just from winning championships or earning saves. I got to play with Ken Griffey Jr., and sit in the bullpen with Greg Maddux and talk pitching. I played catch with Mariano Rivera,” Aardsma said. “I struck out Luis Pujols during his great season. I look back and know I faced the best in their prime, and I was able to beat them.”
The Skeeters went 4-3 last week as they picked up two games on the division leaders. On Monday (June 26), the Skeeters beat the Long Island Ducks 10-4. They continued their winning ways over the Ducks with a 7-0 win on Tuesday, a 3-0 win on Wednesday and a 3-2 win on Thursday. The Skeeters then traveled to York and lost three in a row, 8-3, 7-3 and 1-0.
Anthony Giansanti continues to lead the Skeeters with a .287 batting average, and Travis Scott has 36 runs-batted-in. Jake Hale leads the Skeeters’ starting pitchers with a 5-2 record and 2.88 earned run average.
The Skeeters will continue their 10-game road trip with a four-game series with Southern Maryland, and finishing with a three-game series at Somerset. After the Somerset series, the league will take a four-day break for the Atlantic League All-Star Game held in Somerset.
Skeeter of the Week
Hector Olivera is the Skeeter of the week. During the last week, Olivera’s batting average was .462 with two doubles and four RBIs.