Aceves hammers ball, has scouts watching

Baseball: Called by his coach the best hitter he's had in 25 years, Howard star may have to choose soon between the pros and college.

May 09, 1999|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

A combination of speed, strong throwing arm and power-hitting ability make 6-foot-1, 185-pound Howard outfielder Anthony Aceves a pro baseball prospect.

And if he is drafted in June, Aceves is ready to give pro ball a shot. His father, Ruben, played two years of minor-league ball as a pitcher in the Montreal system before tearing a rotator cuff.

"He's helped me a lot," Aceves said. "He's stressed education, and he comes to every game."

Howard (14-4 overall, 12-4 league) is having its best season since 1989, when the Lions were 12-7. Aceves' .525 batting average (21-for-40), four home runs, three triples, 37 runs, 22 RBIs and 16 stolen bases have contributed to an offense that averages 10 runs a game -- 12.6 since losing its first three games.

"For average and power, he's the best hitter I've coached in 25 years, and he hasn't hit his peak," said Howard coach Rich Jenkins whose astute baseball knowledge has made Howard one of the league's most fundamentally sound teams this season.

Pro scouts have bird-dogged Aceves this spring, but if he's not drafted, he's hoping to play at James Madison or Arizona. JMU has already landed one of the county's other top players, Centennial catcher Matt Deuchler.

"Arizona may lose two outfielders to the draft, and JMU is looking for one outfielder," said Aceves, who is so feared by opposing coaches that he walked 21 times and was hit by pitches six times in Howard's first 17 games.

Aceves has awesome power. Of five home runs hit to center field on Howard's home field since the fence went up two years ago, Aceves has hit four. His shot April 26 off Glenelg's Jeff Starcher, last season's Player of the Year, cleared the fence at 410 feet in dead center.

But Jenkins was even more impressed his Aceves' home run at Joe Cannon Stadium last Monday -- an opposite-field blast for the left-handed swinging Aceves.

"He had two strikes and hit it 390 feet to left-center in very heavy air," the coach said. "The ball wasn't carrying that night."

Most power hitters strike out a lot, but Aceves had not struck out this season until last week, when he was called out twice, once on a debatable checked swing.

"I'm more disciplined at the plate this season," he said.

Aceves credits Columbia Reds batting instructor Paul Donovan and "Rounding Third" hitting teacher Kevin Young for much of his success.

"They're the biggest reasons I hit so well," he said.

He has played five summer seasons with the Reds.

Aceves has pitched as a closer three times this season, striking out 10 batters in four innings.

He's been pleased with Howard's performance as a team, too.

The Lions are in second place, two games behind Centennial, and have beaten the Eagles twice in three games, including the championship game of the River Hill Tournament, a season highlight for Aceves.

"We've never had a winning record or come close to beating these top teams before, so I'm excited to play," Aceves said. "It's fun to have people cheering you on and will be fun to finish near the top.

"We had a lot of people play summer ball, and we came in with the attitude that we wanted to win it all. We have a great coach, a bunch of good players and team spirit. We stick together and pick one another up, and if we get behind we still think we can win."

Aceves also excelled at football, catching 18 passes and scoring eight touchdowns last fall. Shepherd, Frostburg and Salisbury all would like him to play football for them.

Pub Date: 5/09/99

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