NEOSHO, Mo. — By the time the 2017 regular season rolls around, Aaron Ashby is expected to become yet another name among a long list of talented athletes to don the blue and white Crowder College baseball uniform.
He’ll also be yet another name in a long list of talented Crowder pitchers to step on the mound at Roughrider Field. If the name sounds familiar, it’s for good reason. His uncle, former Roughrider Andy Ashby, a member of the school’s hall of fame, is perhaps the most famous Roughrider of all.
Aaron Ashby was formally introduced with 13 other 2016 commitments at Crowder’s annual meet and greet on Saturday at Crowder College.
Andy Ashby, who attended Crowder from 1985-86 before going on to spend 14 years in the major leagues with the Phillies, Rockies, Padres, Braves and Dodgers — going 98-110 with a 4.12 career ERA in 305 games (285 starts) — was a fan of his nephew’s choice.
“He was definitely excited to hear that I was committed here,” Aaron Ashby said. “He’s always had my back and worked through stuff with me. We talk all the time about everything and coming here and stuff.”
Despite throwing with the opposite hand, the fireballing teenage southpaw from Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Missouri, (the same school in which Andy Ashby prepped) certainly shares other similarities to his uncle. Tall, lanky and polite, the similarities are striking on and off the field. On the mound, they both certainly know how to pitch.
Aaron’s one-hitter with 13 strikeouts against Oak Park back on April 4 showcased the type of talent that made the Roughriders giddy when he agreed to join their program.
“We’ve seen him up to 89,” Crowder coach Travis Lallemand said. “It’s an electric arm with really good stuff and a great frame to build on.
“The development, he’s got a lot of room to grow. He can get a lot more physical in his time here. He needed a program of development and that’s what we do here.”
Sitting before his family at Saturday’s meet and greet, Aaron, an all-conference selection as a junior who also considered offers from Missouri Southern, Jefferson College, Maple Woods and Missouri Western, said he can’t wait to get started at Crowder.
“I liked the program and I really liked the coaching staff, I really liked the small-town atmosphere a lot,” Aaron Ashby said. “They have a program down here for pitchers especially, and, then again, my uncle came here and that’s a big thing.”
“It’s a neat demographic,” Lallemand said. “Andy called me about him a year ago and we started hearing a lot of buzz about him. Obviously, we recruited him because he’s a good player, but just being related to Andy sure makes it a really neat story.”
The elder Ashby, who returned to Neosho to participate in Crowder alumni festivities a few months ago, including the alumni baseball game, has given his understudy plenty of pointers throughout the years.
“Especially when I was younger, he’d come to my games and watch me pitch and give me pointers, mechanics-wise,” Aaron Ashby said. “He definitely helped me a lot.”
So is there a chance the two could square off against each other someday in an alumni game?
“Hopefully,” Aaron said with a laugh.
For now, Lallemand says he sees a pitcher with a good head and a world of potential.
“Who knows, (he) might be the next big thing out of Crowder,” Lallemand said. “We’re happy we got him.”