As the DH for the NCAA’s All-American First Team, Aaron Sabato put College Baseball and the Big Leagues on notice in his freshman season at North Carolina. This week, Aaron took time out of his busy schedule to do an exclusive interview with me discussing everything from the Dallas Cowboys to the question on everyone’s mind: when he thinks he’ll be ready to sign a Major League deal. Take a look:
Shane Simmons: We’ll start with a few easy ones. What are your favorite sports teams/baseball team?
Aaron Sabato: Uh, my favorite sports teams are… for Football, the Dallas Cowboys… NBA the Knicks.
S: Ahh, that’s rough.
A: …I know, even though they’re alright. But I gotta be a loyal fan. Baseball is obviously the New York Yankees.
S: Favorite type of music and favorite musician?
A: My favorite type of music? I mean I like country music… I like all types of music. My favorite musician? I like NF as a rapper and Lil Wayne before games to hype us up.
S: Wayne can do that. Now getting into your incredible first season, ACC freshman of the year, First team All-American, and co-national Freshman of the year. Oh, and a cycle on May 17th against rivals NC State Wolfpack in heroic fashion. What was the most important part of your seemingly flawless transition from high school to college?
A: Well, you said seemingly flawless. But after my first weekend, I was doing really well then hit a really tough rough patch for like the next two weeks. I went like 1-30 and was batting around .154 a couple of weeks into the season, but I think the biggest thing was the mental jump I took. I stopped caring so much about first at-bat strikeouts or first couple at-bat outs. I realized there are so many more at-bats and opportunities in each game and throughout the season. I think when I started being able to have a plan and realize what I can do, I started brushing off bad outs and not get too hyped if I got a hit or too low if I struck out. I think just staying even keel, keeping my confidence, and trusting my ability was the biggest thing. That really started to develop and build my mental aspect and was, I think, the biggest difference between the beginning of the year me and me half-way-through me and now.
S: I know Brunswick High School and head coach Montanez most likely get the most out of what’s available, but how different is the college game in terms of advanced analytics and scouting?
A: Definitely the analytics. We had an analytics team come in this year, one of the kids who made it — I think his name is Mike Daly Harris — and he had like 75 kids try out to be on his analytics team at UNC alone, which was pretty crazy.
S: Which part helped you the most?
A: That has been the biggest thing. He created an app on our phones that allow me to see every at-bat and pitch I face and video from every swing and at bat in every game. I mean, it was pretty nuts the information I had access to. It’s the reason I could watch my swings and really see what I was doing wrong or right to help me.
S: And that always gives you something to work on, no? Because you always have things to look at, right?
A: Yeah, 100 percent. You can go and see, like if you crush the ball, you can still see little stuff. You might not have done everything right, there’s always little stuff you can focus and work on. I can always hit the ball farther and be better so yeah, for sure.
S: You led the Heels in RBI’s, OBP, Slugging, and broke the freshman record for homers. What about your game do you like the most and adversely, what part would you like to work on the most?
A: I want to work on my lateral footwork and my fielding, only because like, growing up, I was always known as a hitter. I don’t want to be just labeled as a hitter or DH. I want to play the field at a high level. The biggest thing I like about my game is obviously my hitting and power. When I go take BP at certain fields, people stop and are kinda in awe and watch me. That’s definitely one of the coolest parts. It’s awesome to be able to separate myself hitting-wise even before the game starts.
S: Favorite athlete and favorite baseball player? Is there someone you try and imitate?
A: Favorite player is Mike Trout. Hopefully I can imitate him in some fashion and at some point. My favorite athlete, though, has to be Roger Federer. I’m a big Roger Federer fan. Even if it’s like the Australian Open, I’ll get up and watch him play at like three in the morning.
S: I know you are an incredibly hard worker and are aspiring to be great. Where does that motivation come from? Are there particular people or moments that have inspired you to be great?
A: I think it comes from my Dad especially and my brother. My Dad played college baseball, and when he comes in the backyard hitting, he can do pretty much anything still — just line drives to the back of the net when I’m like rolling over ground balls. Just his tremendous hard work… I mean he’s been working since he was, like, eight years old, whether it was baseball or working for his dad at his job. My dad has been an unbelievable role model, and my brother plays collegiate baseball and played at UNC for a year in a half. Especially him being two years older than me, that’s what I wanted to do. I had to follow in his footsteps and strive for a goal he had already achieved. I knew I had to work just as hard as him, so he was definitely a role model ever since I was little.
S: I know you can shoot the lights out of any building on the basketball court, but other than baseball, what is your favorite sport to watch and favorite sport to play?
A: My favorite sport to watch is probably Football. I’m a huge, die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan. I absolutely love them, especially with the new boys, Dak Prescott and Zeke and all of them. Also, if I weren’t playing baseball, I’d probably say football too. I loved it… so much. It brings joy the same as baseball.
S: Switching it up a touch, who’s had the best aux of anyone you’ve played with? What did that person play?
A: The best? My best friend at school, Will Sandy. And I mean he has every kind of music. Like literally everyone I show songs to and their like “where’d you get that,” I have to give credit to Will Sandy. He’s a left-handed pitcher there at UNC, but I mean he plays Lil Wayne. A lot of rap music like Kodak, but he also has some soft slower songs. Carlos Santana “Sideways”? I think. That ones really good, [Will Sandy] has definitely the best I’ve ever heard. He knows so much music.
S: Here’s the last one and the big one… when do you expect to be ready to consider signing a Major League deal? What are your short-term and long-term goals for your baseball career and life?
A: Oh wow. If all goes right, I’ll sign next June. But if not, then I’m gonna sign in 2021. That’s my Junior year, but because I’m sophomore-eligible, I can sign in 2020. Hopefully, if all goes right, I’ll be fortunate enough to sign then. My goal is to play Baseball until I’m at least 40 years old in the Major League, and just like, bring the game to other kids around my town. Not many other guys bring it, so being able to have little kids who grew up in my town, just little Rye Brook, NY, and show them they can do it too would be awesome.
S: Well Aaron thank you for doing this, good luck with everything man. Keep balling.
A: Thanks dude I appreciate it.