Talent, character carry South Bend Clay High School grad to pro baseball

06.20.2017 | By Al Lesar, South Bend Tribune

Getting the real story depends on who’s speaking.

Talk to Clay High grad Aaron Bond about his baseball career at San Jacinto College and it’ll be about transitioning from a lead-off hitter to the clean-up spot in the lineup, while developing into a pretty good left fielder.

When San Jac assistant coach Jason Krug talks about his star pupil, it’s more about the “good-hearted and caring” young man who became a hero to Krug’s 11-year-old godson and other youngsters in the community.

 

Blend those two perspectives and it’s a pretty good composite.

That’s the talent and the character that will carry the 6-foot-3, 190-pound left-handed-hitting 20-year-old into his professional baseball journey. Bond was selected in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball draft last week by the San Francisco Giants.

Bond, who spent the last week at home in South Bend, left Sunday for Arizona to report to the Giants’ spring training facility and its rookie team. That’s where he was expected to sign his contract.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Bond said before he left. “I can’t wait to get this started.”

Waiting, really, is why Bond got to this place. After his freshman year at San Jac (located in Pasadena, Texas, a Houston suburb), one that ended in a runner-up finish in the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament, Bond was drafted in the 39th round by St. Louis.

“I needed to get better and get smarter,” said Bond, who was proud of the 3.0 GPA he earned the last two semesters as he finished up his associates degree. “I needed to learn to read fly balls, develop some opposite field power and get stronger.”

Check. Check. And, check.

This past season, when San Jac repeated its NJCAA runner-up finish, Bond hit .343 with nine homers (five to the opposite field) and had 22 RBIs. During the season, he was moved from No. 1 to No. 4 in the batting order.

“That’s a pretty big adjustment,” Bond said. “You go from focusing on just getting on base to hitting in the gap. Either way, you have to put a good swing on it.”

“Aaron’s swing became very efficient,” said Krug. “It’s not easy to go from being a contact guy to a gap-to-gap hitter.

“Like everyone in baseball, Aaron struggled. What sets him apart is that he never got down. He always stayed positive. He never got upset and was open to change.

“He has learned so much about the mental side of the game. He never

held onto any failure. He would be able to flush the last at-bat, and put everything into his next one.”

Krug saw Bond’s personality elevate into a different level when youngsters from the community were invited to spend time at the San Jac facility and get instruction from the players.

“Aaron really looked forward to the time with the kids,” Krug said. “It was awesome to watch. He truly cared. He made an effort to get to know them and listen to them. The kids recognized that and flocked to him.”

That’s when Krug was able to see that the program’s mission had been a success.

“Our whole objective is to coach to change lives,” said Krug. “With Aaron, it was easy. He’s so good-hearted and caring.

“We’re not concerned about what our guys’ outcome is going to be as a baseball player, we’re focused on the kind of person they’re going to be in life. Our philosophy is: Be a good person; do the little things right.”

And if, by chance, you hit over .300 – all the better.

Those could be two pretty solid goals.

No matter who you talk to.