Draft prospect Aviles drawing crowds
Suffern High School right-hander threw consecutive no-hitters
SUFFERN, N.Y. -- Robbie Aviles doesn't mind the crowds of scouts that pile up behind the plate for each of his starts this spring. His consecutive no-hitters this month have actually been a welcomed distraction for a team battling through an emotional season.
"It's fun. I like it a lot," Aviles said pitching in front of a sea of radar guns. "It gets my adrenaline going, I guess. It's awesome to see them back there."
It's also helped keep his mind off what's been a difficult time for him and the Suffern community. Two of Aviles' teammates, Vincent Crotty and Christopher Konkowski, were tragically killed in a car accident on March 30 when the infielders were driving to a morning practice. The news has been devastating to the town, located about 25 miles north of New York City.
"It's hard. We think about it every day," said Aviles, who, like his teammates and coaches, wore a cap with the newly retired numbers of his teammates embroidered on the front. "Obviously, their numbers are always out there. We dedicate everything, every game, every practice, to those two kids. They were such great kids."
On Wednesday, Aviles, projected to be drafted in the first few rounds this June, took the mound in search of his third straight no-hitter. A cold, windy day in New York, the tall right-hander did not disappoint, striking out 12 over eight innings to pick up the win in front of roughly 30 Major League scouts, a familiar site these days. He gave up a single in the first inning, one of three hits allowed.
"I'm happy that I got that over with, actually," Aviles said of the early base hit that ended his streak. "I got over that quick."
The recent buzz around the 6-foot-4 starter began two weeks ago when he used just 68 pitches in a perfect game against Nanuet. He no-hit North Rockland in his next start on April 22 in front of dozens of scouts, making national headlines.
"It was awesome. It hadn't been done here, so anytime you do something for the first time, it's special," he said of the perfect game.
This week's Draft Reports
|Robbie Aviles||Suffern HS, N.Y.|
|Adam Duke||Spanish Fork HS, Utah|
|Tyrell Jenkins||Henderson HS, Texas|
|Zach Lee||McKinney HS, Texas|
|Brian Ragira||James W. Martin HS, Arlington, Texas|
|Jake Thompson||Long Beach State|
|LeVon Washington||Chipola JC|
"I think if I get a good opportunity and I think everything is working out, then I wouldn't hesitate to start my pro career," said Aviles. "But I wouldn't mind going to the University of Florida either."
Aviles' father, Brian, played five seasons in the Braves organization and is Suffern's pitching coach. He hinted that his son may soon be following in his footsteps.
"I know what he wants," said Brian Aviles. "I know he wants to go straight to the pros. And he won't get a big argument from me."
And so, the scouts have come. Dozens milled around behind the backstop on Wednesday, each armed with a radar gun and a smile. Aviles, who has 46 strikeouts in 28 innings this year, was clocked around 90-92 mph on this afternoon, with one scout reading his fastball at 93.
"I felt good. I was hoping my arm would get a little looser because it was really cold out," said Aviles, who struck out the first batter he faced. "It got loose pretty quick, and I felt good from then on."
Aviles' father, who spent time with the Durham Bulls during the height of their Hollywood popularity in the 1980s, said he knew his son would reach this point.
"We're hoping for a little higher than the third round," he said. "I didn't dream of it; I'd say I saw it coming."
Both father and son are huge Detroit Tigers fans, a loyalty passed down from previous generations. The elder Aviles, in fact, wore a Tigers jacket over his Suffern uniform.
"My dad talks about that a lot," Aviles said of being drafted by the Tigers. "But I don't care, any team, as long as I'm playing."
Aviles has overcome the challenge of gaining exposure in the Northeast with good showings in several top showcase games. He hit 93 mph in last year's Aflac All-American High School Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego and also was selected to the 2010 Perfect Game USA Northeast All Star Game, the 2009 Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif. and the 2009 East Coast Pro Showcase in Lakeland, Fla. He finished his junior season 9-1 with a 0.60 ERA, striking out 77 hitters in 46 innings.
And, two straight no-hitters, just to further boost his stock.
"The only thing that's challenging is that our season isn't as long, and [the scouts] wouldn't have as many opportunities to see us," Aviles said of playing in the Northeast. "But they've come out here, and they've seen me as many times as they would have if I was down South."
His father, who learned mechanics from Leo Mazzone, has tried to soak in all the attention.
"He's pretty nonchalant about this, and if he's hiding it from me, he's doing a pretty good job," Brian Aviles said. "I think I'm the one it affects more than him, to tell you the truth."
Aviles, who features a hard slider, a mid-70s curveball and low-80s changeup, said his dad's knowledge has helped get to this point.
"It's good to have him here, I know he's calling all the pitches, so we're always on the same page," he said.
The Draft, less than two months away, will be a huge moment in both their lives.
"I think about it a lot," Aviles said. "It's hard not to think about."
How long has the elder Aviles been grooming his son for this opportunity?
"I'd say about two months old, when he was about old enough to crawl," Brian Aviles said with a smile. "You laugh, but it's the truth."
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.