Every minor league player relishes the opportunity to be promoted, but for Stockton Ports' first-baseman Anthony Aliotti, the promotion from the Midwest League in 2010 to the California League this season held special significance. Aliotti hails from the East Bay, specifically Pittsburg, California, and is an alumnus of East Bay institutions De La Salle High School and St. Mary's College. Playing 30 minutes from home in Stockton this season, Aliotti has enjoyed having his friends and family in the stands.
"It's been amazing. Family coming out to every game that they can make, which has been more than half of the games here [at Banner Island Ballpark]," Aliotti said.
"It's been fun having them get a chance to see me play."
Aliotti's family can be easily spotted at Banner Island Ballpark. They are the ones in the San Francisco Giants' gear. Aliotti joked that his family's loyalty to his parent team's cross-Bay rivals is so strong that they might still show up at the Coliseum in black and orange even if he is suiting up for the green and gold.
Not surprisingly, it is a former Giants' great that Aliotti grew up admiring and modeling his game after: Will Clark. Like Clark, Aliotti is an accomplished defensive first-baseman. Current Midland Rockhounds' manager Steve Scarsone raved about Aliotti's defense when Scarsone managed the A's Instructional League team during the fall of 2009. Aliotti takes great pride in his glove work.
"That's my number one aspect [of my game]. I love to help out our defense by picking the ball or fielding the ball, anything," Aliotti said.
Offensively, Aliotti's approach at the plate echoes the A's organizational philosophy about hitting. He is currently tied with Stockton teammate Michael Choice for seventh in the California League in walks with 36 in 62 games and Aliotti has a solid .374 OBP. In 2010, he walked 92 times and had a .397 OBP for Low-A Kane County.
"I tend to be more patient waiting for my pitch. I have a ‘zone that I like to see balls in and I've trained myself so that when the ball isn't in that ‘zone, I let it go and wait to hit the ones I am looking for. If it's not there, I just let it go," Aliotti said.
Lately there have been a number of pitches to Aliotti's liking. Over his last 10 games, he has doubled his season homerun total from three to six and increased his double numbers from six to nine. For the month of June, Aliotti has an 828 OPS.
Aliotti has enjoyed the more offensive-friendly nature of the California League ballparks after two pro seasons in pitcher-friendly leagues, but he acknowledges that the overall level of pitching has improved from short-season and Low-A to High-A.
"[The Cal League is a] much more friendly offensive environment. But the pitching has gotten a lot better. Pitchers spot their off-speed and fastballs a lot more. They'll also throw their off-speed a lot more in hitters' counts, which can mess up a hitter a little bit. That's probably the biggest difference right there," Aliotti said.
The next step up the ladder in the A's organization will take Aliotti far from home with the Double-A Midland Rockhounds, but his next two promotions after Midland will land him right back in the Bay Area and will present his family once again with the dilemma of what colors to wear in A's territory.