Spring Training Midpoint
At the midway point in this years, Major League Spring Training the transactions between the big league clubs and their minor league affiliates have begun in earnest as front offices and coaching staffs whittle down their spring training squads to the 25 man Opening Day rosters. At this point, there are still multiple Cardinal 9 Alumni vying for that opening day spot.
While there are many Cardinal 9 Alumni in the professional ranks, a handful of others are beginning to grow the coaching tree at the collegiate and high school levels. One, in particular, is Aaron Gershenfeld who serves as the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at The Citadel. I had the pleasure of serving alongside Gersh for 3 great years before we both began our coaching adventures. Within the first minutes of meeting him, it was apparent that Gersh defined what it means to be a baseball guy. The man eats, sleeps and breathes the game. During the few times, we worked the offseason camps at UofL together, I was witness to the development of a great teacher of the game of baseball. That passion and ability to instruct hitters has led to tremendous success in his young coaching career. Gersh has worked with hitters at The Citadel, East Tennessee State, and Vanderbilt, with his teams putting up tremendous offensive numbers at each stop.
His attention to detail, especially in the hitting and catching part of the game, has helped him stand out as one of the games rising young coaches. In his brief coaching tenure, he has had the privilege of working with great players including last years number 23 overall pick, Jeren Kendall. Yet, it is his ability to maximize the talent of all of his players by getting them to buy into and trust the system that produces these results at such a high clip. Some coaches have a tremendous knack for the game but are unable to connect with their players. Gersh, however, has both and his players feed off of the eminent energy level he brings to the ballpark every day. I recently caught up with him amidst the business of this season.
Q. Why did you choose UofL?
A.I was very fortunate for Coach Mac and his staff for giving me an opportunity and for them continuing to believe in me and give me chances to help the program win.
Q.What did being a part of the baseball program mean to you?
A. It meant the world to me and it taught me a tremendous amount. From building competitive fibers in between the lines to having toughness in the weight room to being a great teammate in the clubhouse and everything in between, I learned so much as a person, developed my abilities as a baseball player and really was able to grow my baseball IQ during my time at UofL.
Q. What did it mean to you to be able to go to Omaha, and get to play?
A. Being apart of 2 teams to reach the pinnacle of college baseball and make it to Omaha will be memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life and certainly are opportunities I will never take for granted. You learn how special of a group it takes to have the opportunity to play there, how challenging it is to be one of the last 8 Division 1 teams to still be playing, and you gain a strong sense of pride for the fraternity of College baseball players that have played in Omaha. Having family and friends see me play in Omaha is a very special memory and one that we still cherish. Coach Mac made it to Omaha as a player at The Citadel in 1990 and then has been back there in his coaching career, and that is something I think about now as a coach every day and is certainly a goal for me to be coaching in a program that gets back to Omaha.
Q. Since you were a catcher what is it like now watching guys you worked with every day be able to pitch at the big league level?
A. It is awesome to see former teammates have so much success at the professional levels. It brings me a ton of joy to see those guys succeed because they are deserving of all the successes they reap. It was cool to watch the postseason this past fall and see Chad come out of the bullpen for the Yankees, dominate, and then I began replaying in my mind all the hours spent catching him and working in the bullpen. Chad was always an easy pitcher to catch…He would put the ball in my glove very effortlessly, he didn’t ever miss too many spots, he was a professional target hitter long before he wore the navy blue pinstripes!!
Q. How did your time with the UofL coaches impact your budding coaching career?
A. I draw upon lessons learned from all of the coaches I had at UofL quite often. Between Coach Mac, Lemonis, Williams, Mundorf, Cheesebrough, and Barksdale – I feel very fortunate to have played for such a knowledgeable, passionate and caring coaching staff that taught me so much about the game of baseball and more so life characteristics, habits and lessons that translate to success. Experiences from being with them on a daily basis have stuck with me, many of those lessons taught from them are timeless winning traits. We use many of those same concepts now with our guys at The Citadel because I’m convicted that many of the things we did at UofL are proven and battle-tested to translate into success on and off the field in growing young men as people, students, and baseball players.
-So far Matt Koch has pitched in 4 games totaling 8.1 innings, 4 strikeouts, an ERA of 2.16 with a WHIP of 1.20. Koch is playing well with his extra looks so far as he competes for a spot on that opening day roster. He can also add a Sports Center top play to his list of accolades after he made a diving catch up the first base line in a game.
Boston Red Sox
-In 4 at-bats Cole Sturgeon has 3 hits including a home run, 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.
Chicago White Sox
In 12 games Adam Engel is slashing .276/.364/.759/1.122 with 2 doubles and 4 RBI’s. He displayed an exceptional ability to patrol center field last year and as long as he can continue to produce at the plate we should Engel in the outfield on the south side as a regular this summer.
Through 11 games Adam Duvall is slashing .250/.290/.500/.790 with a couple of home runs and 7 RBI’s.
*Kyle Funkhouser has not pitched with the big league club since the last update.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Will Smith has played in 11 games and has totaled 3 hits with 2 doubles and a home run.
Corey Ray has had one at-bat so far with no hits recorded.
New York Yankees
After 2 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen, Chad Green has totaled up 5.1 innings pitched with 9 strikeouts to 1 walk and an ERA of 3.38 with a WHIP of 1.5.
Josh Rogers has made one appearance throwing 1.1 innings, surrendering 3 hits and 2 earned runs.
San Diego Padres
*Kyle McGrath has not pitched at the big league level since the last update
Tampa Bay Rays
Unfortunately for Nick Solak, he has yet to record a hit with his new club, but he does have 1 RBI and only has struck out 4 times in 18 at-bats, so he is showing an ability to hit; it’s just a matter of time before that first one falls in.
Chris Dominguez is pushing hard to get back into the big leagues this spring. So far in 17 games he has collected 11 hits, 2 doubles and 2 home runs with 7 RBI’s, and is slashing .367/.367/.633/1.000. If he can continue playing at this pace he is going to make it hard for the Nationals to send him down.