CASA GRANDE — It started when his dad took him to the park with a brown bat and a wiffle ball.
Or perhaps it started when his mother was pregnant with him and she was on bed rest watching Arizona Diamondbacks baseball.
Either way, Aiden Montiel has a love affair with baseball.
The 11-year-old, a sixth grader at Cactus Middle School, plays baseball on the school’s eighth grade team, and when he’s not doing that, he’s playing ball for the Pirates of the Cal Ripken League or club ball with the CG Devils.
“Yeah he studies it,” Aiden’s father Joseph said. “He will watch YouTube videos and best plays and he watches MLB (Network) all day.”
Aiden, who plays third base and pitches, recently got the attention of an umpire who nominated him to participate in the Under Armour Baseball Factory tryout at Sloan Park in Mesa, the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs.
“When he was being evaluated by the baseball factory, the head coach said that third base and catcher are the two hardest positions, and he said that Aiden is a natural third baseman and that’s where he should really keep his focus,” Aiden’s mother Katie said.
During his evaluation, his dad said they tested his arm speed, bat speed and his actual speed, where scouts said Aiden has above average arm strength and bat speed for his age.
“They said that is major league level if he continues to go at that rate,” Joseph said of Aiden’s arm strength. “The ball speed coming off the bat is 66 mph as well, and they said that he’s hitting at a 16-year-old level.”
Aiden was throwing 66 mph, and the speed coming off the bat is about the same according to Joseph. However, he was a little slow around the bases.
“As long as he’s raking them out there, he won’t need too much speed,” Joseph said. “But we will get him there. He’s in that awkward phase where he’s unbalanced and he’s getting to know his strength.”
Aiden will head to the Baseball Factory All Star Experience this weekend in Costa Mesa, California, and will also be in attendance for the Home Run Derby in July at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Over the years, the baseball factory has produced more than 100,000 college players and over 600 Major League players, according to its website. Some of the notable alumni to come out of the program include Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper, Christian Yelich and Josh Donaldson.
For Aiden, he’s hoping to one day join the 600-plus major leaguers, while his parents are hoping for him to join the more than 100,000 college players.
However, in the meantime, Aiden will continue to eat, sleep and drink baseball between his Cal Ripken team, the Pirates and his travel ball team, which plays in an average of two tournaments for 10 games a month.
It’s a heavy workload for any kid, and on top of it, he has to manage his grades, something his mother said he has done.
“We wanted to make sure he could maintain grades before he took on two teams, and he’s proven himself,” Katie said.
As for a favorite team, Aiden said it’s the Diamondbacks, with his favorite players being Ketel Marte and David Peralta because he likes the way they play the game and how they are personally.
“Yeah there’s going to be some good games with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks,” he said referring to the Dodgers’ recent trade for Mookie Betts. “Yeah (the Diamondbacks) got some good pickups too in a good pitcher (Madison Bumgarner) and a good center fielder (Starling Marte).”