The Akron Aeros have struggled through a tough season in 2013; their opening day roster was almost completely new, from players to coaches to ownership. There have been a couple bright spots for Aeros fans, however. One of those has been the young, talented core of prospects that dots the Akron roster, the other is the exciting play of center fielder Tyler Holt.
Holt is the epitome of hard-nosed, all-out baseball. He is like a free safety on a baseball field. He has speed and the guts to take chances. He is everything exciting about the game of baseball, and everything that has been exciting since the beginning of the sport.
Back in the early days of the game, the speedy chance takers ruled the diamond. Guys like Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, and Eddie Collins were swift of foot and fearless. Then Babe Ruth came along and the home run became the thrill of the game, but those scrappy, speedy, fearless guys still seemed to be the most beloved by fans. It’s what made Richie Ashburn so beloved in Philly, it made Kenny Lofton so beloved in Cleveland, it made Billy Martin the heart of a generation, and it is what Indians fans first fell in love with when watching a young Grady Sizemore. Tyler Holt embodies those same qualities as a baseball player.
Holt was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 10th round of the 2010 draft out of Florida State University. His speed set him apart early in his career, he stole 34 bases in 40 attempts in Kinston in 2011; He stole 29 more the next season. He also showed good plate discipline, never having an on-base percentage below .340. His speed and eye helped him climb steadily through the ranks, reaching Akron for the first time in 2012. In 55 games to end the season there, he batted .250 with 13 stolen bases. His first full season with Akron was in 2013, where he began the year with is old Carolina coach Edwin Rodriguez.
“He plays hard, he is always running all over the place,” Rodriguez said. “He goes all out every day, that’s just the way he is.”
This season, the 24 year old Holt has played very hard. In 118 games he has 123 hits with 27 stolen bases and a .265/.338/.360 batting line. His eight triples are the second highest total of his career and his 22 doubles are a career high. He has done everything he can to give his all every day.
“I just go out there and give it all I’ve got,” Holt said. “[Edwin] lets me be myself, he lets me go out there and play the only way I know how.”
The way he knows how has led to some very good results. Holt is fifth in the Eastern League in runs scored with 71. He is seventh in the league in hits with 123, and he is second in the league in triples with 8. His 27 stolen bases are third in the league, and he has been caught only six times on the season. Through all of that offense, maybe the most amazing stat for Holt is the 112 starts he has made in center field with only two errors.
There are many occasions that errors and fielding percentage can be deceiving. A player has amazing speed and instincts, gets great jumps, may get to twice as many balls as a slower, less savvy outfielder, but because he gets to so many more balls, he makes more errors. This is not the case with Holt, and his two year manager would agree.
“He makes great catches, he gets great jumps,” Rodriguez said. “He is just everywhere out there.”
Holt is just an all-around ballplayer. He can hit, he can play defense, he can steal bases, and he embodies the hard core, blue collar baseball player.
The Akron Aeros broke their seven game losing streak this week in a big way. They came home over the weekend to host the Reading Fightin Phils. In game one, Indians former starter Josh Tomlin pitched four rehab innings to start the game, giving up one run on two hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Akron trailed 2-0 heading into the eighth inning and it looked like they would make it eight losses in a row, but Aeros’ slugger Jesus Aguilar came up with two on and belted a home run to give the Aeros the lead. They would go on to win the game 3-2 with Kyle Crockett getting the win with two shutout innings in relief.
Game two saw more late inning heroics. The Aeros trailed 3-2 heading into the eighth innings when Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin got things going with back-to-back singles. Aguilar came through again with a double that scored both runners and gave Akron the lead, and Carlos Moncrief added an insurance run with an RBI single. The Aeros finished the game with a 5-3 victory.
The Aeros made it three in a row behind a very good performance from starting pitcher Brett Branch. He pitched six innings giving up one run on five hits for the win. Moncrief and Cedric Hunter added home runs to propel Akron to the 4-1 victory. They team currently stands at 59-67 and eight games behind first place in the EL Western Division. They begin a three game road series at Erie before coming back home to Canal Park on August 22 for eight straight.
Photo: Jesse Piecuch/DTTWLN photographer