Wicklund earns baseball ride
Aaron Wicklund doesn’t have a dad who coaches an NCAA Division I team, nor do his baseball talents precede him from coast to coast.
Consequently, Wicklund’s ticket to the top tier of college baseball has come from his incomparable love for the game and deep resolve to improve. Centenary College in Shreveport, La., recently recognized those qualities by signing the former Whittell High star to a letter of intent.
“I’ve always been looking to go to the next level. And I can’t beat going to Centenary, which plays three of college baseball quality programs: Wichita State, Oklahoma State and LSU every year,” said Wicklund, a sophomore outfielder for the San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif.
Make no mistake, Wicklund’s workmanlike approach to the game has preceded him to Shreveport.
“If we could get a dozen Aarons, we’ll go into next year feeling very confident,” said Centenary coach Mark Linden. “He’s our type of guy. He has a good work ethic, expects a lot of himself and we know we’re going to get everything Aaron has to offer.”
Among other schools expressing interest in Wicklund were Pacific, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada and San Diego State. Playing several thousand miles away will make it tough for family members and friends to see him play, but Wicklund can accept it.
“It always was in the back of my mind to return home and play, but it was really a money situation,” Wicklund said. “Nevada has a lot of guys returning and they didn’t really have any money.
“I think it will be tough and everything, but it’s something I’m really looking forward to. It’s a great opportunity to see a part of the country I’ve never seen before.”
Besides, Wicklund already knows one of the Centenary players, Brett Pagni, who prepped in Reno.
“Brett was pumping me up to the coach down there,” Wicklund said.
Of course, Wicklund has done just about everything Delta coach Pat Doyle could ask over the past two seasons.
“I’m truly happy for Aaron. It’s something that he obviously has always wanted to do,” said the 20-year Delta coach. “If we could clone Aaron, I would like to have 12 examples like him every year. He knows his role, his work ethic and leadership are so good and he’s done a great job in the classroom.
“I’ve had a lot of good players, so I’m not saying he’s one of the best, but as far as maximizing his abilities, he’s as good as anyone I’ve had.”
Through 22 games this season Wicklund is hitting a solid .333 with 11 RBIs and five stolen bases in five attempts. Nine of Wicklund’s team second-best 30 hits have gone for a Delta-high nine doubles and two others he legged out for triples.
Last season, Wicklund hit in the ninth spot and was repeatedly asked to sacrifice the runners along. But Wicklund’s offensive role has expanded this winter as the outfielder hits second in the batting order.
“He’s been given the opportunity to swing the bat, which again is the byproduct of his work ethic and being in a better position to do things offensively,” Doyle said.
Ask Wicklund to list which areas of the game he needs to improve, and you’d assume by his reply that he’ll never stop trying to get better.
“Right now, I think I’m a solid player, but there is always stuff to work on: base-hit bunts and gap-to-gap hitting. There’s not one area to work on, it’s basically my whole game,” he said.
The 21-year-old Wicklund has played every outfield position halfway through the season, but has settled in left.
“He’s throwing the ball a lot better from the outfield, He’s worked real hard on his defensive skills and his arm is stronger,” Doyle said.
The Mustangs, 12-10 overall, have struggled early in the Bay Valley Conference season, winning two of six games, but Wicklund isn’t worried.
“We’re a young team that has a lot of talent. Our problem has been that we haven’t played an entire nine innings. Usually our play in one or two innings will kill us,” Wicklund said. “But there’s a lot the season left, and I still think we’re going to make a pretty good push toward the playoffs.”
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