Rick Aguilera’s first summer college baseball experience didn’t go so well.
He was a third baseman at Brigham Young, and his coach sent him to the Alaska league to learn how to pitch. It didn’t go well.
In his second outing, pitching in the ninth inning of a 9 1 game, the opponent’s leadoff batter put down a drag bunt. Frustrated, Aguilera beaned the next hitter, the opposing catcher who charged the mound for a scrap.
Both players were ejected, and as Aguilera was having his face patched up in the locker room, the trainer said “you shouldn’t have done that.”
Aguilera responded that he should know better and should have targeted the kid who bunted.
“No,” the trainer said. “That was Jack Del Rio.”
“I was sent home the next day,” Aguilera said.
Aguilera returned to the summer college baseball scene Friday as the Mankato MoonDogs’ home opening guest, throwing out the first pitch and signing autographs. The evening seemed to go without any beanballs or fisticuffs from adoring fans, let alone former NFL linebackers.
“As I was driving here today,” Aguilera said. “I had a lot of flashbacks from my college days. That’s when you learn how to be a big leaguer, and you understand what it takes and how hard you have to work. It’s an opportunity to measure yourself against players from all across the country. You really grow up as a baseball player and a young man.”
Aguilera, 50, broke into the majors in 1985 with the New York Mets jerseys, pitching mainly in relief. He was traded to Minnesota in 1989 and became one of the top closers, totaling 204 saves in seven seasons.
“When I was traded to Minnesota, I was excited because I thought I was going to get an opportunity to start,” Aguilera said. “But that first offseason, I got a call from (manager Tom Kelly) who said he wanted me the be the team’s closer. It wasn’t much of a discussion. He pretty much hung up right after that.”
He was traded to Boston in 1995 but returned the next season as a free agent, trying again wholesale baseball jerseys to be a starter. Aguilera finished his career with two seasons with the Chicago Cubs jerseys, bringing his total to 318 saves.
He was inducted into the Twins jerseys’ Hall of Fame in 2008.
“The first year I was eligible, I got the ballot and saw my name on it, and that was pretty cool,” Aguilera said. “The next year, I got that ballot again, and I just kind of put it aside and didn’t think much of it.
“Then I got the call that I was in. It didn’t really hit me until the day of the induction when I looked out on the field and saw TK and Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva there. That was very humbling, and it’s a real honor to be part of that group.”
Aguilera now lives near San Diego, and he rarely is asked to make public appearances such as Friday’s. Other than an alumni game with the Mets jerseys, the only public relations work he’s done is for the Twins jerseys.
“That was a great time in my life,” he said. “I spent 10 years with the Twins jerseys, and both of my kids were born here. This is a very special community that really embraces its champions, and I don’t take that for granted.”
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