Entering his sixth professional season, Aaron Hicks has been one of the biggest prospects in the Minnesota Twins system for the past five years. After having a strong season with New Britain last year, Hicks was given the opportunity to compete and win the starting center-fielders job for the Twins. But after hitting just .192 in 281 at-bats in Minnesota, he was sent down to Rochester to continue to develop his swing and to ensure that he will be ready for the 2014 season in the majors. After batting practice on Friday I had the chance to talk to him about his season, some of the injuries heís been facing, as well as his childhood and his other passion, golfing.
Photo Courtesy of Joe Territo
Chris Fee: First off, howís the wrist feeling?
The wrist is feeling really good, I took BP today and it felt great, and I canít wait to get back into the lineup, it could be as early as tomorrow. (Saturday)
CF: Whatís your time in Rochester been like since youíve joined the team?
Well, Iíve been hurt most of the time, so I really havenít been able to get going. Itís been fun though, playing with this team, contending for the playoffs, and continuing to play great baseball.
CF: Whatís it like to come to a team thatís in the middle of a playoff hunt? The clubhouse atmosphere, the relationship between the teammates, how is it different than earlier in the year or if the team isnít winning?
Itís a lot of fun. Not only being able to play with a new team, but being able to have fun with the things that they do in the locker room that I havenít seen too much in my past teams that Iíve played with. So itís definitely pretty fun.
CF: Obviously being in Rochester isnít where you thought you would be at this point in the season, what are you working on to get back to Minnesota and to have some of the success that you had in Spring Training?
Really itís all about getting the swing back that I had back in Spring Training, and that Iíve had my whole life. I just need to get something going, get something to click, and next thing you know I could be back in the big leagues. Right now though itís all about figuring myself out as a hitter and get the confidence up and keep battling.
CF: Is that something thatís difficult to do, keeping the confidence up? Or do you just keep grinding and know that things will come around.
: Itís not so much about having confidence in yourself, but having confidence in your ability. Being able to trust your hands, being able to hit pitches that arenít necessarily strikes but pitches that you know that you can handle, being able to trust that and hit the ball hard.
CF: I know that your dad played minor league baseball for a few seasons, is that what started you in becoming a baseball player?
Ummm, actually it was more about me competing against my older brother when I was younger. We would play a lot of baseball in the back yard once I stopped playing golf and started playing competitive baseball. It was one of those things where I wanted to be better than my brother who is like 10 years older than me. At that time being 11 or 12 years old and my brother being way older than you the competitiveness definitely comes out of you.
CF: What made you decide to become a switch hitter? One day did you think ďBoy this is too easy I got to find some way to make this game more difficult?Ē
: * laughs * No, actually it was my dad. He was a Righty/Righty when he played. He actually got hit in the face with a fastball from a right-hander that he didnít see. Also the fact that I was playing golf, and I was good at it, he kind of thought that if I hit left-handed, eventually I would get mad and go back to playing golf. But thatís pretty much how I became a switch-hitter.
CF: So your dad didnít want you to ďfollow in his footstepsĒ so to speak?
No, not at all. Just the way that his whole career went, and how hard it is to become a big leaguer, itís a tough grind. Itís something that definitely has made me stronger.
CF: You were drafted in the first round a few years back, 14th overall I believe, was there any thought about going to college? Or were you thinking, ďBeing drafted in the first round? You canít get any better than that.Ē
: Well, I signed to go to USC coming out of high school. I mean, I really love their program and also that school. Being a Trojan was something big and something that I wanted to be apart of the history there. It was kind of 50/50 at that point, I really wanted to go get my education at a school that is established.
CF: What ultimately helped you make the decision? Family, Friends, Coaches, the Twins?
: It comes down to really how bad a team wants you. Definitely the dollar amount helps persuade you. * laughs * It was also about getting my career started, really getting something going and being able to just go out and play baseball.
CF: Youíre the 18th player to reach the major leagues from your High School; do you still talk to some of your old teammates and the coaches?
: Yeah, I talk to a lot of the former players there. The whole coaching staff actually went and saw my first big league game. My coach at the time, I was his first player to make it to the big leagues so it was a big honor for him and myself to be able to enjoy that together.
CF: Going back to you as a golfer, what is your handicap right now?
AH: Right now? Probably like a five or a six.
CF: Thatís pretty good.
: Yeah, but when youíre a scratch golfer and then you go back to a five or a six itís kind of frustrating, because when youíre at five or six you can easily go back to a ten. It all depends on what your day is like.
CF: What side did you swing from, were you a switch-hitting golfer as well?
* laughs * I was a righty golfer, and that came naturally. I was so young, and my dad actually would buy two buckets for me, and one bucket for him. I would finish my two buckets before he would finish one. I was young, I didnít realize the importance of trying to get your swing down, I just teed it up and swung and then teed it up again.
CF: Any chance of trying out for the tour after your baseball career is done in 15-20 years?
Yeah, I mean thatís definitely another dream of mine. I want to play a long career in baseball and then go and finish up what I started when I was younger.
CF: Any thoughts on playing some Pro-Am tournaments? I know there are a lot of other current athletes that play in those during the off-seasons.
I donít know, I think I would try something more along the lines of the Long Drive Contests and start there, and then start playing in events. I mean the driver for me is the best part of my game; so being able to hit the long ball is what I like to do.
CF: What do you put out there off the tee?
I would say, it all depends on the wind but I probably average around 330 yards. I think my longest is 410.
CF: Wow! So youíre driving some Par 4ís? While the rest of us are lucky to reach in four shots.
* Laughs * Yeah I think Iím the perfect guy to have in a scramble because I just go for it, thatís the perfect opportunity to go for the greens.
CF: What are you looking to work on the rest of this season, and going into the off-season what do you have to do to be ready for Spring Training next year?
Really just trying to find my swing and to find the confidence in my abilities. I want to be the opening day starter in centerfield in the big leagues. I think if I finish strong here, stay healthy, anything could happen. I might play great here and end up playing in the playoffs for this team and might have a September call up. But those things are out of my control, so just to be able to compete.
CF: Have you thought about playing winter ball at all? Or is it still too early to make that decision?
No, not this year. I think this is the year that Iím going to take my first off-season off; Iíve never actually had one before. Iím going to go and enjoy my family, enjoy my hometown and just relax and enjoy the time off.