Cunningham a road warrior

Des Moines, IA: Minor league road trips are certainly not something that baseball players have fond memories of. But in Aaron Cunningham's case, many of his greatest moments of 2010 have come away from Portland's PGE Park.

Aaron Cunningham's home/road splits this season tell the story. He's hitting .313 on the road with an OPS approaching 1.000. However, his home average falls well below the Mendoza line at .152 with a sub-.400 OPS.

It's a problem Cunningham can't quite figure out.

"For some reason this whole year, I've struggled in Portland," said Cunningham, who joined the Padres organization in a January trade with Oakland. "I don't know what the reason is. I know I'm not the only one. Who knows if it's a coincidence or if there's something to it. I've played pretty bad baseball there.

"I feel stupid even saying it, but I feel like there's something in Portland. Everywhere else I go I feel great – I see the ball fine and feel comfortable. Maybe it's the fact there's no dirt in the infield. I just haven't responded. I enjoy the city of Portland itself, but I always get excited when I get on the road because I can get back to normal."

At least Cunningham won't have to spend much more time in the ballpark, as the Beavers are set to leave town after the 2010 season. Either way, Cunningham hopes that his 2011 season will be spent in the majors.

The 24-year old got an extended look in a Padres uniform this season, hitting .312 over 77 at-bats with San Diego. But the trade-deadline deal that sent outfielder Ryan Ludwick from St. Louis to southern California helped spell the end of Cunningham's run in the majors.

But there were no hard feelings. Afterall, Cunningham knows what a rollercoaster ride it can be when you're on the bubble between the majors and Triple-A.

"There really wasn't anything specific (that led to my demotion)," Cunningham said. "They had to make a move. I've been through it and understood. I was just the odd man out. They said to come down and keep the same level of play.

"I was guilty of not doing that last year. One of the times I got sent down, I was pretty upset about the situation. I shouldn't have been because I did poorly in the big leagues. I just wanted to be there – my attitude wasn't the right way. You tend to learn from those situations."

Cunningham will keep rooting on the Padres from his different stops in the Pacific Coast League, competing for a September call-up once the Triple-A season wraps up.

"Sometimes you might see people hoping their big-league team loses when they get sent down, but I hope they win every game," he said. "I want every chance I can have to be part of a playoff team. That's a dream come true, experiencing something like that. I'm going to play with the same intensity and try to keep the same level of play. Hopefully I get another opportunity to show that I can help the team in a playoff race."

The opportunity to play on a winning team has re-energized Cunningham, after spending the '08 and '09 seasons in Oakland. But his 55-game run over two seasons with the A's also taught him a lesson.

"My opportunities were slim with the A's, but there were some so I can't say I didn't get a chance," he said. "Anytime you get called up, that's an opportunity and I wish I could have taken advantage of it. On the other hand, I'm in a great situation now and have gotten a great opportunity with the Padres. I was up in the big leagues most of the time for an entire season."

After the 2010 season concludes, Cunningham will likely take some time away from baseball to be with his wife.

"I have a few offers to play in Venezuela, but I really want to take in this off-season," he said. "This has been an amazing year already and hopefully I can get in another couple months. After that, I'd like to spend some time with my wife. I've been up and down, but she's been stuck in San Diego with our dogs."

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