Aggie Reliever Adam Heredia Making The Most Of His Time In Alaska

Adam HerediaBaseball is pretty far down the list of things people from outside of Alaska think of when you talk about the state. When you mention Alaska to most people the first thing that usually comes to mind is snow. The next thing that comes to mind is bitterly cold weather. That's certainly the thought that first came to mind for Aggie relief pitcher Adam Heredia when he found out he would be headed to Kenai, Alaska for the summer to play in the six-team Alaska Baseball League, a wood-bat collegiate summer league. "I pictured snow," said Adam when I asked him what his first thoughts about heading to Alaska. "It'll get cold here and there but it's not really bad weather."

Every summer since the league's official formation in 1974, dozens of college baseball players descend upon the largest state in the U.S and nearly 400 of the players who have played in the league have gone on to play in the majors. Some of the ABL's more famous alumni include Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield and other notable MLB stars including Randy Johnson, Frank Viola, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, John Olerud, Steve Finley, J.D. Drew, Michael Young and Jacoby Ellsbury. At the start of the 2010 season there were 27 former ABL players on MLB rosters.

Adam was a late addition to the Kenai roster and for him, playing in the ABL is a chance to learn and grow as a player. "I'm learning some new pitches here and hopefully I'll carry it on to fall ball and into next season," said Heredia. "I'm learning new things, making my pitches better."

Adam, a Las Cruces native, played a key role on the Aggies' pitching staff last season as a walk-on after two seasons at Eastern Arizona. "It's a privilege that they gave me the opportunity [to walk on] and then actually throwing a lot of games, I had 26 appearances as a setup man. I just had a lot of fun."

The most memorable moment for Heredia last season came against WAC tournament champion Hawai'i in the sixth inning of the final game of the regular season series in Honolulu. "One out, bases loaded, full count and the fans are just going wild and the whole place is just shaking and getting a double-play, it was just a good feeling," said Heredia. The Aggies would go on to win the game 10-7

Playing in Alaska, Heredia has had his ups and downs throwing 9.1 innings in seven appearances with a 6.75 ERA with perhaps his best outing coming on June 23rd where he pitched a scoreless ninth inning in a 5-1 victory over the Anchorage Bucs.

With less than two weeks left in the summer league season, he is making the most of his time in Alaska. "Just being able to play here with a bunch of guys that come from a bunch of different colleges and universities, it's a privilege."

One of those teammates is Florida International University's Garret Wittels who will enter the 2011 season with the second longest hitting streak in NCAA history at 54 games. "He's a cool guy. He tries to stay away from the hype, he tries not to think about it," said Heredia.

One of Adam's other teammates is Missouri outfielder Ryan Gebhart, a very personable young man who I had a chance to talk to while waiting for Adam to arrive on the team bus. Gebhart started the season injured but played in 20 games and hit .328 for the season. Gebhart is back for his second summer in Alaska after playing for the AIA (Athletes In Action) Fire last season.

For most of the players the experience in the ABL is just as much about the friendships made as it is the actual baseball being played. "All these guys here are pretty great," said Adam.

When the team isn't playing or practicing, Adam and his teammates head down to the Kenai River to enjoy Alaska's other big summer attraction - fishing for salmon. The house where he is staying is just a few steps from the banks of the Kenai. When I asked if he'd caught anything, Adam smiled and said, "Yep!"

Before heading back to Las Cruces for the fall semester, Adam and his Kenai teammates could be headed to Wichita, KS for the National Baseball Congress World Series, an event that a team from the ABL has won 16 different times including three times by the squad from Kenai. The Oilers currently sit in third place in the league with a 24-12 league record but are just 1 1/2 games out of first place.