Vin Aiello throwing a pitch for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Vin is wearing Jacksonville's Fourth of July alternate Jersey.

Diamond Diaries: Vin Aiello Part II, From OU to Double-A Ball

June 17, 2021 – My name is called in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft.

June 21, 2021 – I flew down to Jupiter, Florida, home of the Miami Marlins Spring Training Facility.

Completely unknown to the life of professional baseball & not knowing what to expect, I packed up one suitcase, brought down my Oklahoma University Wilson A2K glove, & said to myself, “I’m going to the Big Leagues.”

Upon landing in Florida, I immediately felt like a big deal. The Miami Marlins had vans ready to go for all their incoming draft selections & upon arrival, I immediately jumped in a truck filled with 2017 draft selections, guys who started as strangers who would eventually become lifelong friends. The 2017 class had to undergo diagnostic testing regarding internal health, physical health, & arm/body health before they were allowed to play on a field as a Miami Marlin. After a few days of testing, I was cleared to participate & I was on a Big League mound throwing my first professional bullpen, decked out in MIA gear.

After 2 weeks of “Draft Camp,” which is essentially Spring Training for the guys who were in college during spring training, I was promoted to Short Season A ball in Batavia, NY, part of what was the NY Penn League at the time. I was automatically thrown into the fire & got my first taste of affiliated baseball. People hear horror stories of what the minor leagues were like before 2020, and this was a perfect example. Terrible commute, horrible hotels & food we considered inedible, the new guys continuously heard, “don’t like it? Play better”. I took this personally. Hearing this again & again helped me realize that I was in this myself & no one could help me but myself. If I wanted to get out of these conditions, there were 2 options: retire or play better. I chose the latter & after a season finishing with a 2.93 ERA in 17 games, I was promoted to High-A ball in Jupiter, FL in 2018.

Vin Aiello taking a sign, pitching for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. Vin is wearing the Rafters Away Jersey.
Me pitching in the Arizona Fall League.

I was 1 of 4 guys in the 2017 draft class to come out of spring training skipping Low-A Greensboro from that start. Being a 28th-round pick, I felt excited at the opportunity to skip a level, but also a lot of pressure, knowing I would be playing in a spring training/big league facility for the season. Still, I also understood it was sink or swim. The Marlins didn’t have a lot of money invested in me. Therefore, I felt I was a “diamond in the rough” draft selection: if I performed well & the team would feel like they stole me late in the draft; If I performed poorly, they would release me without hesitation. After breaking with the team in 2018 out of camp, I started the season with a dreadful first appearance, giving up 4 earned runs in my first outing out of the bullpen against the Mets. I followed that up with throwing 11.1 straight scoreless innings. Come mid-May, I’m starting to feel great & get adjusted to my new role & team & I got demoted to Low-A Greensboro as a “roster move.” They reassured me that it was not because of a lack of performance, but it still felt like a punch in the gut to be demoted.

It was right then and there that I realized professional baseball is a business & no matter what I did or how I performed, it was a business & I was in this game for myself. When I arrived in Greensboro, most guys were happy to see me as a clubhouse presence & knew what I would bring to the field, but they were upset I was there because they knew I didn’t deserve to be sent down. Baseball players are a rare breed but a special breed of people. We all want each other’s position, whether it’s AA or AAA spots, but we want the best for you at the same time. We all respectfully yet silently are going for one another’s jobs, AT ALL TIMES, but do it in the most respectful & professional manner, as we all know the odds are stacked against us & there’s a limited number of positions on an MLB team that we’re all chasing.

After 6 weeks in Greensboro, I got the call into my manager’s office, where he informed me I was headed back down to Jupiter, FL, to go back to High-A ball. When I got down there in mid-May, my manager brought me in, not knowing me at all at the time, & reassured me that if I performed well, I’d go right back to Jupiter. I took that as a challenge & I began to pitch “angry” and went on one of the best stretches of my professional career. I threw in 19 games, earning the closer role, pitching to a 0.50 ERA with 13 saves, & a Relief Pitcher of the Month award attached to my name. I forced the Marlins’ hand in putting me back in High-A ball & finished my 2018 campaign in Jupiter, never returning to a level lower than High-A for the remainder of my professional career.

When 2019 Spring Training came around, I felt like a different man. I was headed to my second spring training, completely aware of what to expect. I was prepared, mentally & physically, and couldn’t be more excited to get back to the heat after a cold winter in NY. During this spring training, I set 3 legitimate goals for myself. I knew I had some work to do opening the Marlins’ eyes regarding my pitching in the Major Leagues. My goals were:
 
◦Finish the 2019 campaign in AA Jacksonville
◦Finish the 2019 campaign with more strikeouts than innings pitched, showing you have a “plus plus” repertoire
◦Get invited to the exclusive Arizona Fall League
 
I’ll forever be grateful to say that I checked off all 3 bullet points, and I achieved my goals for 2019. I hit every last mark I set out for myself in February & made my checklist a reality. The 2019 season will always be what I consider my “peak” season, as I was 25 years old, throwing as hard as I ever did, & getting the results I expected due to the work & preparation I put in. After the 2019 season came to an end, I had phone calls & texts from Derek Jeter (CEO at the time), Don Mattingly (Marlins MLB manager at the time), other managers & coaches I played for, past & present teammates congratulating me and expecting me to be in the MLB come 2020. I headed into the offseason more confident than ever, knowing that as long as I kept the course & put my work in, I’d get my chance & be able to fulfill my lifelong dream. When 2019 ended, I couldn’t wait for 2020 to come. 
 
And then, 2020 came…
Vin Aiello throwing a pitch for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Vin is wearing Jacksonville's Fourth of July alternate Jersey.

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