LAKELAND, Fla. -- The most identifiable part of Mike Aviles' game was actually a joke. It still gets people chuckling when they see it for the first time.Fans who have seen it over the years have started making sound effects as Aviles waves his bat in a circle over his
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The most identifiable part of Mike Aviles' game was actually a joke. It still gets people chuckling when they see it for the first time.
Fans who have seen it over the years have started making sound effects as Aviles waves his bat in a circle over his head.
And yet, a decade after Aviles first started doing it, he has chuckled his way to a long, successful Major League career.
"I just know it works for me," Aviles shrugged. "It might not work for anybody else. It's kind of what this game is."
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No one would've figured a batting stance like that would work. Aviles wasn't thinking it would work when he started it. A Royals infield prospect back in 2006, he was just exasperated enough during a slump at Triple-A Omaha to try anything. As Aviles worked with then-hitting coach Terry Bradshaw, he tried something goofy as a laugh.
"We were in the cage, and we were working on trying to stay back a little more and not getting impatient," Aviles said. "It was just one of those things out of frustration. I'm like, 'I can't do any worse, I'm just going to wiggle my hands.' And doing it in the cage, it kind of got me in a ready position.
"It literally started out of messing around. It started out as, 'What's the worst that could happen? I could go 0-for-4 tomorrow. I did that this whole week.' And then I felt comfortable. … I know it seems awkward, but for me, I know exactly what it does for me."
What it does for him, Aviles explained, is help channel his energy and keep him in position to react to pitches rather than think about hitting and slowing himself down. It also helped him find a rhythm at the plate, rather than starting his swing from a standstill position.
"The wiggling, you kind of want little movements [leading] to big movements," Aviles said. "If you watch hitters, not many just stand there. Me, I've gotta have something. That helps me with my timing. It got me back to the place that I was before I started to struggle."
Aviles batted .264 that year with eight home runs, 47 RBIs and a .680 OPS, a sharp drop-off from his 2005 numbers at Double-A Wichita. The next year, he returned to Omaha and became the Royals' Minor League player of the year, batting .296 with 17 homers, 77 RBIs and a .794 OPS. Aviles was also the fourth-toughest player to strike out in the Pacific Coast League.
As awkward as it looked, no coaches wanted to mess with something that worked.
"I was playing well and hitting well, so it was like, 'Why even bother mentioning a change?'" he said. "Then, when I first got to the big leagues, you do hear, 'That's never going to work up here.' Well, I don't know. We're going to find out.
"I'm still doing it. I was ready to change if I had to."
Instead, he has plenty of imitators. Kevin Youkilis did his impression on television and received raves. Tigers first-base coach Omar Vizquel has it pretty well down, Aviles said. Jose Iglesias, a teammates of Aviles back to his Boston days, has a good version.
However, Aviles said, it's something he would never try to teach, especially to young players.
"I would never teach it to a kid. Never," Aviles said. "I wouldn't even teach it to my own kid. I tell every kid: Don't do it. It's just one of those things that works for me."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.