The Valdosta Daily Times
Aaron Shipman will admit it. In 2012, he did not have the kind of season most minor league baseball players want to have. He hopes this year will be different.
“Last year wasn’t my best year by any means,” Shipman said. “This year, I want to start strong. I want to start off hot. Going into it, I want to get off to a good, strong start.”
After struggling for the majority of 2012, Shipman, the Brooks County alumnus, will likely start this season in lower Class A, with the Beloit (Wis.) Snappers. In the end, though, he hopes to end up with the Class A-Advanced Stockton Ports.
After being selected in the third round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Brooks County High School, Shipman signed with the A’s organization and joined the Athletics’ rookie team in the Arizona League.
Shipman appeared in just four games, going 2 for 17 at the plate with two runs batted in and two runs scored.
The following year, Shipman was with the Vermont Lake Monsters, the short-season affiliate of the Athletics. Appearing in 63 games Shipman finished the year with a .254 batting average, hitting eight doubles, stealing a career-high 17 bases and scoring 34 runs.
Last year, an injury prohibited Shipman from beginning his minor league season on time. As a result, he was forced to spend two extra weeks in extended spring training. Once he joined the Burlington Bees, a full-season Class A affiliate, he struggled.
He hit just .206 average after appearing in 108 games.
“I think the length of the full-season is what got to me,” Shipman said. “There is a big difference between 100 games and 63 games. The big difference was the length and learning how to endure the long season.”
With a full-season of 100-plus games under his belt, Shipman hopes this season will be better for him, as he continues to prove his worth to the A’s organization. He hopes it begins March 10, when he opens Minor League spring training.
“I’m hoping this spring training could change some minds of people that make the decisions in the organization,” Shipman said.
Overall, Shipman said he is proud to be a member of the Athletics, an organization notorious for having a small budget and for developing players.
“The A’s are moving the program in the right direction,” Shipman said. “They are not a big market team, a big money team and development is a big thing they do. When they drafted me, they told me I could be a leadoff guy and a guy with a lot of speed. I still feel like I can be that guy.”
One thing that helped Shipman understand Oakland’s organization was the hit-movie “Moneyball,” a movie released in 2012 that was based off the 2003 Michael Lewis book that accounts the Oakland Athletics baseball team and general manager Billy Beane during the 2002 season.
The movie, which was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Brad Pitt) and Best Picture, shows the inner workings of the organization and how moves are made from within the organization.
“From conversations with the agents, just going through the draft process, I realized the agents didn’t have the means that the other organizations have,” Shipman said. “If you watch Moneyball, you get an idea of the theory of guys they draft. To see Moneyball, it kind of made everything make sense. It gave me some answers to my questions.”
While life in the Major League’s is known for being glamorous — although the movie makes it clear it isn’t too glamorous in Oakland — Shipman has also experienced life in the minor leagues.
While life on the road can be difficult, Shipman said he stays focused and makes it through the grind by keeping his mind on the ultimate goal: An appearance in the Majors.
“It is a job. It is not easy,” Shipman said. “The travel is strenuous. At the same time, it is something to enjoy. It is hard and it takes a lot of work and dedication. All in all, life in the minor leagues is pretty exciting as long as you keep in mind the ultimate goal. It is work. But at the end of the day, it is still a game.”
Part of playing in the minor leagues is playing in front of small crowds, something that doesn’t bother Shipman after coming from the small town of Quitman.
“It kind of depends on where you play. This year I played in Burlington and you only have 300, 400 a night,” Shipman said. “In Western Michigan, they had 8,000 or 9,000 a night.
“But growing up in a small town with no fans, it didn’t faze me....The main goal should always be considered. Minor leagues are for development and fans are just a bonus. My job is to prove to the guys that make the decisions that I can play at the next level.”
In the offseason, Shipman returns to South Georgia, where he helps his dad, Valwood head coach Robert Shipman, teach the Genesis Baseball Academy, when he is not improving his own game.
“Most of the time I’m working with my dad because he runs the Genesis Baseball Academy,” Shipman said. “That is what I’m tied up with most of the time....My dad also helps me work some things out with my swing. In the end, he is still my coach.”
While he was playing in Class A last season, another Lowndes native, Stephen Drew, was finishing his Major League season with the A’s, after he was traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks. When asked if he and Drew have spoken, despite Drew now being with the Boston Red Sox, Shipman said he hasn’t seen Drew in some time, but he does have all his gear.
“He sent me all of his stuff, so I have all of his equipment,” Shipman said. “Although I can only wear it in practice because he is a Nike guy and I’m an Under Armour guy.”
Regardless of what he is wearing, Shipman, who signed with Under Armour in 2010, has the ultimate goal of making it to the Major League’s one day. He hopes to take a step towards that goal this year.