Franklin Slugger Aguilar Leads Panthers Into City 3-A Playoffs

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By all accounts, Andy Aguilar is a ballplayer who prefers to speak through his actions on the field.

And Franklin High's soft-spoken first baseman has carried a loud bat for the Panthers throughout his three-year varsity career.

Aguilar's skill at getting the most out of one swing is matched only by his ability to drive home a point with one word.

For example, when Aguilar was asked what he likes to do when he's not playing baseball, he offered a single-word reply. "Eat," he said with a toothy grin.

Despite getting a steady diet of mostly unhittable pitches this season, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Aguilar hoisted Franklin onto his broad shoulders and carried the Panthers (19-9) into the City Section 3-A Division playoffs. Aguilar batted .424 with five home runs and 31 runs batted in for Franklin, which finished third in the Northeast League of the Northern Conference with an 11-6 record.

"Andy's stats are pretty good, but they could be a lot better if people challenged him," said Rick Campbell, in his 11th season as Franklin coach. "He gets a little frustrated at the plate because no one will throw to him. Earlier this season, we faced a team that intentionally walked him in the first inning after the guy who hits in front of him got on and stole second."

Aguilar, 18, has been intimidating opponents since 1989 when he became only the fourth sophomore in Campbell's tenure to start for the varsity. Aguilar's older brother Jose was an All-City football player for Franklin and most people figured Andy would follow in his footsteps.

Instead, Andy skipped his sophomore football season to prepare for baseball.

"It was tough to pass up football, but establishing myself in baseball was more important to me that first year," said Aguilar, who also played football his junior year. "We had good leaders on that ('89 baseball) team and I learned a lot from them."

The Panthers not only had good leaders but talented players as well. Aguilar batted over .300 for a team that won the 3-A title, Franklin's first City baseball title.

"Usually, a player tries to do too much or is a little nervous coming up to the varsity when they're that young," said Sergio Galvez, a member of the 1989 team that is now playing at Pasadena City College. "But Andy came on strong from the beginning and contributed to that championship."

Last season, Aguilar again batted over .300 and hit three home runs. The Panthers, however, lost several seniors from their championship team and finished 15-9.

"Last year, too many guys thought that because we had won the championship, we could just show up and everybody would lay back for us," Aguilar said. "It didn't happen. You have to play hard all the time."

At those times when Franklin played without discipline this season, Aguilar helped provide the Panthers with a steadying influence.

"He's a quiet force," Campbell said. "He doesn't say much, but when he does, people jump. When he gets upset, everybody listens."

Aguilar said he also did some listening earlier this season. He was issued five intentional walks, causing him to fret over his lack of RBIs.

"I was trying to do too much at the beginning," Aguilar said. "My older brother would see me all frustrated at home and say, 'Hey, you have to cope with it. Next year, you'll be somewhere else and you'll be nobody again.'

"I stopped worrying about it and decided if they wanted to walk me, I'd just take it and wait for the times they made a mistake."

Next season, Aguilar hopes to move into the lineup at Mission or Los Angeles City College.

A low profile, however, likely will be difficult to maintain when Aguilar, the quiet slugger, once again lets his bat do the talking.

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