Interview - Springfield Second Baseman Aaron Herr

An in-depth interview with the Springfield Cardinals' second baseman and second-generation Cardinal.

In the 1980's, the St. Louis Cardinals won three pennants and one World Series playing Whiteyball. The middle of the infield during those years was anchored by Ozzie Smith and his double play partner Tommy Herr. In the dugout during that time, Tommy's son Aaron would be hanging around with the guys, as much as a five year old could be part of the gang. Aaron was born in 1981 so he hung around just for about seven or eight years, enough though, to become a Cardinal fan. As most Cardinal fans know, it doesn't take much to become a loyal Redbirds fan for life.  


After the situation not working out in the Atlanta Braves organization, the Springfield Cardinals signed Aaron Herr 21 games into the current season.  Early on in his minor league career, Aaron was never known for his power, but as of this writing he was tied for second in the Texas League with 21 home runs after 99 games. I asked him about his power surge, his growing up the son of a major league ball player, and about his goals.


First off, welcome to Springfield. It's not quite St. Louis; it's about 213 miles from the parent club. But you're familiar with St. Louis quite a bit, tell us about that.


Well the first eight years of my life I lived the whole summer there, when my Dad was playing for them (Cardinals). We lived in Chesterfield. It was like my home away from home. I'd go there for the summers, and back to Pennsylvania when school started with my Mom. So I say I'm from Pennsylvania, but there's a part of me that says I grew up in St. Louis, too. So I love Missouri, I love St. Louis, so there's still a lot of friends and connections back in St. Louis.


I guess you would like to be making your home there again…


That'd be nice, that'd be a dream come true. It's been what I've wanted ever since I was a little kid. I'm just trying to work hard and get there, hopefully.


Did you play for your father in high school?


He was one of the assistant coaches.


Did you feel any pressure?


He never put that on me.                    


Did you put any on yourself?


Yeah, I put a lot more on myself than he put on me. Even now, me and him talk every night after the games and he doesn't even ask me about baseball, I have to bring it up. He's very laid back about it.


What about other players back then, having your Dad as one of the coaches, did they rib you about it?


It was hard when I was a freshman in high school; I had a chance to start on the varsity. There was talk around school just because my dad was the coach. I mean, I felt a little pressure that I had to go out and prove that I was the best player to play varsity. I ended up doing that and I gained the respect from all the teammates so, but other than that everyone pretty much new that was my sport and they new it had nothing to do with my Dad.


Does your father being a former major league ball player put extra pressure on you now?


No, not at all. It's a blessing having him be an ex-big leaguer because he knows what I'm going through right now, and he knows how hard it is mentally and physically. Especially mentally, so he's pretty much there for the mental part, like I said we talk every night and he just tries to keep me on that even keel and try to stay positive when I'm doing good and even when I'm doing bad just to try to stay on the even plane and not get to happy and not get to down because this game is one day at a time and that's how you got to take it.


Now that you're with the same organization he was with, do you feel more pressure or more scrutinized? This is the club you wish you could make it with.


It would be a dream come true. No, there's no pressure, I mean everyone refers to me as Tommy because people have seen him play, and that's fine, that comes with the territory, but the only pressure I have is the pressure put on by myself because I'm new with the team, just trying to impress them and put some hope in their eyes that they made the right choice in picking me.


Your father made the big leagues in a little over five years, right up the ladder. Do you find yourself comparing your progress with his?


This is my fifth season and my second year in Double-A. I think this year is a pretty big year for me and I had a pretty good solid year last year in Double-A with the Braves. It just never seemed to work out with them and I think this opportunity with St. Louis is going to be a really good opportunity. I'm getting the chance to play every day and I think if I can do what I'm capable of doing what I think I can do throughout the whole season and impress them a lot, I think things will work out. Progress-wise to the big-leagues I couldn't tell you.  This game's so funny, it could happen sooner or it could happen later than everyone's expecting.


Do you ever find yourself comparing stats with his progress at a certain time and your progress?


No, I don't even know what he hit in the minor leagues. I could tell you about some years he had in the big leagues, but until I get there I'm not going to….(Laughs)


Do you set specific goals before the season?


Yeah, most definitely and each year they might be a little different because each year you learn some new things, you learn from your mistakes. So I set some personal goals, just to... well I like to have something to reach for and have something to work hard for to know that it will pay off if I do reach those goals. So, I mean nothing real big, nothing like crazy goals, but just things I think I can accomplish and hopefully I will.


Two years ago you hit 13 home runs; where'd the power surge come from that year?


I don't know. I messed with my stance a little bit that year and started to do a little leg kick. I hit 13 home runs that year but I also struck out a lot, too. When I was in high A and the next year I got to AA ball, I kept that same stance but I struggled and the pitching's a little harder than high A, so I had to shorten up my swing a little bit. I still have some power but I don't consider myself a home run hitter. I can probably hit ten to fifteen a year, but I'm mostly a gap-to-gap guy and extra base hits so, when I start thinking about home runs that's when I get into trouble.


Have you brought the leg kick back this year? (Note: as of Aug 18th, Herr has 21 home runs.)


Just a little different. I always wanted to try a leg kick, but the way I did it before I was just taking my leg more straight up. Now, I just kind of bring it more back, so my weight is on my back foot. When I took it straight up all my weight was going forward. I do have a little leg kick now.


You were worried about your strikeouts back in 2003; are you worried about that at all this time?


I think I just came to realize and accept that's one thing I'm always going to have to work on, is cutting my strikeouts down. But I'm the kind of hitter that I swing hard and I'm aggressive and I'll probably strike out a lot. 


When you're at the plate, do you try to just make good contact or are you really trying to put the ball in a specific area?


It depends on the situation. Sometimes I try to hit to the right side to move the runners over. My approach to every at bat is to right center - that helps me stay back.

I always try to look for the fastball and work off of that. Each hitter's different, but when I start looking for different pitches that's when I start getting myself in to trouble. I'm a fastball hitter and if they make a mistake on their breaking stuff I‘ll swing at that too. But it's common sense to me. You look for the best pitch you hit and that's fastball for me and I look for it.


How much of your style of play is influenced by Whiteyball and your father's style of play?


I think my style of play is just being around the game ever since I was a little baby; in the locker room at a professional level and seeing the guys work hard and seeing what they do day in and day out to become what they are. And my Dad says that the baseball instincts that I have just come from being around the game and part of the game ever since I was a little kid. But my style of play, I think may be genetics. I mean people who've seen my dad play and then see me play say… well even my manager Chris, (Chris Maloney) he says that I move and feel and just a lot of things just like my Dad. I mean I don't try that, that's just how I move and I think that's part of the genetics.


Did you know you wanted to be a professional ballplayer?


Yeah, that's all I ever saw of myself.  Not being pressured or anything, but I think by growing up around the game with my Dad from being one year old. That's all I really ever knew and that's all I ever wanted. I wanted to play professional baseball.


Was there a time when you knew that was it - when you made a decision to really put the effort into it?


Honestly, ever since I was old enough to know. Like when people asked me "what do you want to be when you grow up?", ever since that first question it was always – be a baseball player.


When you were little, did you and your father play catch? Did he instruct you in fundamentals?


He let me run on my own. I used to play catch with myself all the time, throw the ball against the wall.  I was one of those kids that, I never had, like action figures. I always had my glove and bat beside me. He never made me go out and throw, but we played catch at home and out on the field too.


One last question.  Is baseball in some fashion a lifetime deal for you, or do you have other fields of interest you would like to eventually go into?


Right now it's baseball, and it's been baseball since I was old enough to know about baseball.


Even after playing, do you want to stay in some capacity?


Um, I don't know. My goal is to get to the big leagues and go from there and after that I'd love to start a family some day and have little kids. But, in other fields, I mean I have other interest. I'm a big outdoorsman; I love to fish and hunt and stuff, I love to golf so, I don't know.  I don't like to think about what I would do after baseball because that means it never worked out (laughs). So I'm still going for my goal and we'll go from there.


Jim Terry was born and raised in St. Louis and grew up a Cardinals fan. He is a freelance writer living in the Ozarks.

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