FORT MYERS, Fla. – Aaron Hicks stood just outside the first base dugout at City of Palms Park late Saturday afternoon, a ballpark located on the other side of this southwest Florida city from the park he calls his workplace these days.
Hicks was at City of Palms watching the top high school prospects from the class of 2012 perform at the 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase. It had been just four years ago that Hicks was at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati participating in the 2007 PG National Showcase.
“It was a fun event,” Hicks recalled Saturday. “I remember going out there and just trying to do the best I could.
“It was a chance for me to show my skills and play against the best players,” he continued. “I had a lot of opportunities playing in Perfect Game (events), and it gave me a chance to compete and see where I’m at.”
Hicks, a native of Long Beach, Calif., first experienced a Perfect Game event when he attended the 2006 PG Aflac Showcase in San Diego. In 2007, he increased his exposure at the PG California Underclass Showcase in San Diego and the PG National in Cincinnati, and was selected to play in the prestigious Aflac All-American Classic in San Diego.
Later that year he played with the San Gabriel Valley Arsenal at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.
By the time the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft rolled around, Hicks – a switch-hitting outfielder – was ranked sixth nationally by Perfect Game, and was considered one of the top high school prospects in the draft. He was snagged by the Twins with the 14th overall pick of the first round, agreed to a $1.78 million signing bonus and was sent to the Twins affiliate in the rookie Gulf Coast League.
He played with the Beloit (Wis.) Snappers in the low-Class A Midwest League in 2009-10.
This season, Hicks is with the Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins’ high-Class A affiliate of the Florida State League, which plays its home games at Hammond Stadium on the southeast side of town. Hammond serves as the spring training home of the Twins while City of Palms is the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.
After 54 games with the Miracle, Hicks was hitting .263 with two home runs, 14 doubles, 19 RBIs, 38 runs scored and eight stolen bases.
“It’s going good,” Hicks said. “Every year I’ve been moving up another level and trying to get to my destination, which is to the big leagues, and I like the progress I’m making every year.
“My commitment to this game has gotten a lot better, and I’m taking everything that’s coming in – all the information that’s given to me – and I’m using it on the field.”
Hicks said he couldn’t compare the talent levels of the prospects that were on the City of Palms Park field Saturday with the guys he played with at the PG National in 2007, but did say it looked like there was “some real good talent” in the class of 2012.
The prospects that have been at City of Palms the last four days are likely to surpass Hicks’ PG National group, at least in terms of first round draft selections.
Twelve 2008 first-rounders were ’07 PG National alumni, including Hicks; Tim Beckham, made the No. 1 overall selection by the Rays; Garrit Cole – who was drafted in the first round by the Yankees in ’08 and again as the No. 1 overall selection by the Pirates earlier this month – and Eric Hosmer.
Hosmer, who is on the Kansas City Royals’ active 25-man roster, is one of three ’07 PG National alumni who have already made it to the big leagues. The others are second round picks Tyler Chatwood (Angels) and Brad Hand (Marlins).