Aidan Huggins is currently in his third season for the NCAA Division One Illinois State Redbirds. Last year, before the pandemic halted the season, the Edmonton product hit .327 while starting all 14 games and had a remarkable 1.000 fielding percentage in 44 chances while playing shortstop.
This season Huggins has picked up right where he left off, currently hitting .292 in 26 games. He has 6 doubles and 1 home run to go along with 7 RBI while hitting in the 2-hole or leadoff spot. He also boasts an impressive .406 on-base percentage.
Aidan, who was born and raised in Edmonton, had a bit of a winding journey before ending up at Illinois State. He went to Cisco College down in Texas out of high school but then transferred to Cloud County College in Kansas for his sophomore year in 2018.
Before college, Aidan played for Taylor Burns for both the Prospects Academy and for Seeba in his grade eleven and twelve years. Aidan was a huge part of the powerhouse 2016 Edmonton Cardinals team that won both the Provincial Championship and the 30-team Spokane Wood Bat Classic tournament. Additionally, Aidan was teammates on the Prospects Academy with Connor Burns - AHP's Director of Hitting and Baseball Academy Co-Head Coach.
Taylor caught up with Aidan recently.
To start things off, you were really starting to break out last spring before the season got cut short. What did you take away from last season and what are you looking to build on this year?
Firstly, to definitely never take baseball for granted because it could easily be gone before you know it. But from an actual playing standpoint to continue to try and have as much fun as possible and enjoy the journey. Moving forward into this year I want to continue building on my leadership and taking on a bigger role within my team and continuing to polish my game in any way I can.
You've really turned into an elite, reliable defender. Honestly looking back to our last season together in 2016 I know when things started to click. From what I remember I don't think you made more than an error or two the last half of the season. As you've taken that to the juco and now Divison One level - what are some keys for you to be consistent and to really make the routine play consistently?
The biggest thing for me was taking every rep game-like and sticking to the fundamentals as much as I can. Whether it was through you in 2016 or my coaches here, you have both made that easier for me by holding me accountable when I am not. Also, making sure I am doing the little things right when it comes to playing catch, doing drill work or taking mass fungos at the field. I would also say mixing in some fun plays when I can to stay loose and dynamic because playing the middle infield definitely requires some range and creativity on occasion.
Let’s back things up a little. What did you learn from your year at Cisco, and then how did you benefit from your experience at Cloud the following year and the coaches you had there?
I learned a lot about what it takes to be good and to play down here in the U.S, there are not any handouts and often times if you want to get your reps in you have to do it on your own time and you have to want to work whenever you can and as hard as you can. At Cisco I also learned how imperative it is to take care of the mental side of the game as well because if you don’t it can really make you play down from your skillsets. That carried over into cloud as it was a more familiar environment with old teammates and similar coaching styles that I was accustomed to when I played for you. It was truly blue collar through and through there and I benefitted from that on and off the field. Some of my fondest college memories were playing for coach Gilliland. Cloud made me even tougher and further instilled upon what we had worked on with Prospects.
Hindsight is 20/20, but what would you tell your 17 year old self about what to look for in a college program. What would you say to Canadian High School baseball players reading this?
I would tell myself to go where you are most wanted and appreciated. If you find a coach or a place that really connects with you definitely take that opportunity because you will benefit greatly from being in a good environment versus somewhere you might really want to go but don’t quite fit in at (whatever those reasons may be). If there any Canadian High School players reading this, I would just say continue to work as hard as you can and once you get the opportunity to play down in the U.S you are going to have to work even harder. It is not an even playing field for everyone who goes through college baseball and that is definitely the case for Canadians too if not more so. But if you take care of the little things on and off the field and work hard it will all fall into place and you will really enjoy the new experiences you find yourself in.
Looking back, what was your fondest memories of your time with the Prospects Academy and with Seeba?
My fondest memory with Prospects is hands down those rides in the vans. Whether it was going to B.C, staying in province, or going down south there was never a dull moment and that’s where I think we all connected the most and formed a true brotherhood. It made playing together that much more special because we all genuinely loved being there with each other. My favourite memory with Seeba was winning provincials for sure. That team was one of the grittiest and funniest teams I have ever played for and we went out every day with a killer mentality which made it that much sweeter when we beat everyone who hated us so much in the process.
I’ll be honest – I was tough on you. Has there ever been any “aha” moments as you’ve gotten older where maybe you didn’t get what I was talking about at the time, but ended up resonating later?
Oh, most definitely, you were always on me about doing the little things and especially the things I could control like my effort and what I could do to separate my game from others. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have heard one of my college coaches preach about those things since being here. Those were definitely things I started to do while with you but didn’t fully appreciate how important they are to being successful. Every program I have been at preaches those qualities and they are more than necessary to win games and be good.
Lastly, you spent a couple weeks hitting with Connor at AHP before the shutdown happened this past December. What did you like about the work you guys were doing?
I loved how personalized everything was. We never did drills just to do them there was always a purpose behind it and that purpose came from things I specifically needed to work on. I also really enjoyed working with the blast technology. It was something I had always heard of and seen professional guys using in their training or even games, but I never got the opportunity to try it out before. I have never been the biggest in analytics, but it provided another way of looking at my swing and it definitely helped clen up my swing mechanics. Plus, the environment itself, being around you guys again made it that much sweeter to get work in.