Going to the College World Series is something only a select few college baseball players experience.
Former IU pitcher Aaron Slegers was one of these as a starter on the 2013 IU Baseball team that made it to Omaha. After injuries slowed Slegers down for the first two years of his Hoosier career, he emerged as a top starter that year.
Slegers said Omaha was a great experience and it was unique to be the first conference school in a while to make it.
“Being the first Big Ten team in a few decades to go that was really special,” Slegers said. “The support that it rallied around in Bloomington and across the state of Indiana was really something special.
The tall 6-10 righty was not the only pitcher to have a strong year as Joey Denato and Kyle Hart teamed with him to form the best staff in IU history. All 3 had ERAs between 2.04 and 3.01 in 2013 and were lead starters at some point in their Hoosier career.
Slegers said he was happy to be part of such a strong trio and that Denato and Hart made his job easy.
“No pressure on me because Joey and Kyle were established Big Ten starters,” he said. “I am glad I had some success that year.”
Before coming to IU, Slegers was recruited to be a Hoosier by former IU Coach Tracy Smith who gave him the chance he had hoped for.
“I love playing baseball and was looking for opportunities everywhere and Tracy Smith gave me that opportunity,” he said. “When (Tracy) called me and said he might have a roster spot for me it was the only opportunity I was ever looking for.”
At IU, Slegers saw the transition of his team from the old Sembower Field to Bart Kaufman Field and the rise in fan support during his tenure. He says he was proud to be part of the era that helped make IU baseball to what it is today and still has a sense of connection to the team.
“It is a big source of pride for me,” he said. “To be a part of that transition and to go back to IU and see what that baseball program has become and Indiana always feels like home.”
After his strong 2013 season, Slegers elected to forgo his senior season and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the fifth round. After a strong start to his pro career and working his way up to the Twins by 2017, he was sent back down to Triple A where he continued to pitch solid with a 3.80 ERA in 2018.
However 2019 has seen struggles and multiple moves.
After being designated for assignment in January by the Twins, he was claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. In March, he was again designated for assignment by the Pirates and traded to the Tampa Bay Rays and put on their 40 man roster and sent to AAA affiliate the Durham Bulls. On May 16th he was again designated for assignment and reverted to the Durham Roster outright.
The 2019 season with the Bulls has been his toughest yet wth a 6.45 ERA in 19 appearances. Slegers said he is getting back to form in what has been the most trying season to date.
“It’s been a rough start,” he said. “Not what I expected obviously but I am making progress and turning in right direction lately.”
Returning this weekend though to the state he pitched in college to take on the Indianapolis Indians, Slegers said he was disappointed he did not get to throw but understands sometimes the rotation does not fall that way.
“You can’t control those things,” he said. “I would have liked to pitch here but it didn’t work out that way.”
More than anything though, Slegers said he hopes to get back to the Big Leagues and pitch again like the pitcher he knows he is capable of being.
“That’s always the goal to get back to the major leagues,” he said. “I am doing the best I can at it and trying to get better every single day.”