Always considered a sure-handed center fielder, Josh Aviles of Naugatuck ended his college baseball career at American International College this spring with a major honor proving that distinction.
Aviles was one of nine players chosen by position nationally, and the only Division II player from New England, named to the Rawlings Gold Glove Division II Team.
“I received a text message from my coach; I thought it was a joke,” said Aviles, 22, a sports management major and 2015 Naugatuck High graduate. “It was surprising and shocking.”
Aviles’ perfect fielding percentage probably had something to do with it. He recorded no errors in 120 putouts with six outfield assists, including two against Bloomfield College in early March.
A year ago, Aviles had just one error during the spring trip game in Florida.
“Last year, I lost the ball in the sun, I turned away and the ball landed on the ground,” Aviles recalled. “I was a little shocked that it was called an error. But we were the away team. It happens.”
But that didn’t deter him in the least, playing flawless the rest of the season.
“I’ve always taken pride in my defense,” Aviles said. “I was always able to get a good read on the ball off the bat and knew exactly where it would go. I would put my head down and be able to react and use my speed to gain ground instead of keeping my head up like most people do.”
“I always wanted the ball hit to me,” Aviles added. “I never had the strongest arm, but was always accurate. It’s not hard to catch. The key is to keep it in front of you and hit the cutoff man every time.”
Aviles’ senior year at Naugatuck was derailed after undergoing surgery for a torn right labrum in his shoulder. Limited to just being a designated-hitter for the Greyhounds, Aviles hoped to play in college. He initially was recruited to play soccer at AIC and was actually on the roster, but soon opted for the diamond exclusively.
This spring, Aviles earned third-team All-Northeast-10 Conference honors, starting in all 42 games, finishing with a team-leading .323 batting average with 53 hits, 17 RBI and a team-leading 26 runs scored. Proving his speed, Aviles also had 22 steals in 33 attempts.
“I became more aggressive and went with pitches I could handle,” he said. “I attacked the ball early in the count. Being a leadoff hitter is my favorite spot.”
Other than center field, he said.
As a college freshman, the 5-foot-7, 165-pounder had to prove his worth on a senior-laden AIC team filled with experienced outfielders.
“Early in the season, I was getting into game as a defensive replacement and made some pretty good plays,” Aviles explained. “The odds were really slimmed. Our catcher at the time (Eugene Quirk) went to our coach and said that they needed to get me on the field and to give me a chance. That was a good feeling. I just had to go out and prove I could play. I always knew what I was capable of doing. When I got my chance, I made it count.”
When he was a freshman, Aviles’ dad, Steven, presented his son with a custom-made glove, sporting black and yellow colors in the webbing with yellow strings.
“I always told my teammates that I was a Gold Glover,” Aviles joked.
And now, he is.