Baseball wasn’t supposed to go this way for Phillippe Aumont. The bright lights and big-league glory were his calling card, that’s where he was to spend his playing days. Instead, he finds himself toeing the rubber in front of an intimate crowd at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park. All Aumont can do is keep doing his thing and hopefully find his way back to the stage with his name on it.
June 7th, 2007 was the biggest day of Aumont’s life. On that day the Seattle Mariners selected him with the 11th overall pick in that year’s Amateur Draft. For an 18-year-old out of Gastineau, Quebec it was a dream come true. Aumont has been known to speak vividly of the love he had for baseball from a young age and how he came to idolize Randy Johnson. Being 6’7 himself Aumont had turned himself into a power pitcher in the very mold of his idol, just minus a few inches.
At first, things went as the tall righty hoped they would. He got his feet wet in his first professional season with the Mariners Single-A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He wasn’t dominant, but he was really good and appeared to be on the right path. Midway through the season, the Mariners decided Aumont’s stuff played better in a relief role. Aumont accepted the new role, but something was off, it was easy to tell. The kid who had become a first-round pick by dominating and intimidating opponents looked awfully timid coming out of the pen.
Before the 2010 season, the tall Candian found himself as one of the centerpieces of the Mariners deal to get Cliff Lee from the Philadelphia Phillies. His new home didn’t see the need to allow Aumont to revert back to starting, and thus Aumont became a reliever throughout his affiliated tenure. He finally made a big league roster in 2012 and over 14.2 innings he was quite good, posting an ERA of 3.88 and an ERA+ of 112. But, he was a power pitcher who struggled with control and really didn’t strike many guys out. Throughout his remaining 6 years in affiliated ball, he would post an average K/9 around 8.6 and with each passing year his ERA ballooned and his ERA+ shrank.
By the time he elected free agency from the Detroit Tigers following the 2018 season Aumont knew he needed a breather. His body felt fine, but he needed to get into a better headspace and by his own account he did just that. Before he re-signed with the Ottawa Champions of the unaffiliated Canadian American Association he knew it would be in the same starting role as when he had last pitched with the Champions in 2017. Knowing that and that at 30 years old this might be his final shot to prove he can make it as a starter Aumont brought his new headspace to Ontario with some clear intent behind his revitalized eyes.
Two days ago Aumont struck out 18 Rockland Boulders hitters to set a CAA record in a complete game shutout. The former Phillie has appeared in 12 games for the Champions, 4 of those he has taken to the wire, including 1 shutout. He sports an ERA of 2.05 and a WHIP of 1.040. With a K/9 of 11.5 and BB/9 of 1.1. Aumont is finally living up to the potential he once had. The biggest change in Aumont’s game has been his tendency to throw strikes early and often, the first pitch he throws in an at-bat is a strike 60% of the time. That wouldn’t be enough, and I know there isn’t a stat for this, but for the first time in a long time, Aumont is throwing the ball with conviction. There’s clear meaning and purpose behind what he is throwing and he is attacking the strike zone and tendencies of opposing hitters accordingly.
It may be true that Aumont doesn’t draw any Major League Baseball interest from his time in the CAA this year. Perhaps being the big man in Ottawa is all that is left for Aumont in his career. If that is the case that is fine because watching Aumont pitch for the Champions this year he is visibly a different person. He is pitching nasty and mean, but he’s also smiling and having fun. Baseball was his first love, and it’s clear that after many troublesome years Aumont is in love with baseball once again. If an MLB team comes calling that’s great, but if they don’t then Aumont will keep doing what he loves and baseball in Canada will continue to benefit from Aumont being back in a good place.
Lead photo courtesy of Marc Lafleur – Ottawa Champions