Aklinski focusing solely on baseball

Ben Aklinski has been working various jobs since he was 16-years-old. He’s been a bus boy at various restaurants. He worked the front desk at a gym and been a bag boy, as well.

He’s always worked those jobs to make sure he’s had a little money in his pocket while playing baseball. He doesn’t have to do that anymore since he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies after being selected in the 32nd round of the MLB Draft in June. The outfielder from the University of Kentucky now plays baseball as his job.

No longer does he have to worry about balancing baseball, class and work. Instead, he shows up each day to put on his cleats and put in the work he has to do before playing a game that night with the Williamsport Crosscutters. Aklinski made his Bowman Field debut Wednesday night in the first of three games between the Cutters and Tri-City.

This job seems to suit Aklinski better than any other job he’s had.

“I haven’t had my life without baseball and I don’t want that to change anytime soon,” Aklinski said prior to batting practice Wednesday. “It’s amazing how much nice it is to focus on knowing the only thing I have to worry about is coming to the field, putting on my cleats and getting in whatever work I have to do that day.”

Aklinski has made quite the impression on the Cutters since being called up from the Gulf Coast League during the most recent road trip. He was 6 for 17 in his first four games as a Crosscutter. He homered in his third game, the same night he drove in five runs.

In fact, his eight RBIs in four games are the third-highest total for Williamsport behind only Ben Pelletier (13) and Brayan Gonzalez (12). He’s tied with Danny Mayer for third place.

But if you ask Aklinski, this is exactly what he expects of himself as a player. He understands his limitations and how he’s never going to be a big power hitter. He believes, though, there’s a route for him to have success each time he steps on the field.

“Whatever the situation asks for, that’s what I’m going to do,” Aklinski said. “If you ask me, I think I should hit .400. Realistically, am I going to do that? Probably not. But I feel like I should hit the ball hard every time I get up there.”

Aklinski prides himself on playing the game professionally. You’ll never see the Arizona native failing to hustle on the field, something which was instilled in him by high school coach Matt Denny as Greenway High School in Phoenix.

His player profile on Kentucky’s web site refers to Aklinski as a “dirtbag-type baseball player.” It’s a moniker he smiles at and in which he takes great pride.

“I try to be very professional in the way I do my business,” Aklinski said. “I don’t throw my stuff. At least I try not to. Everyday I’m the same kind of person and I try to do whatever I can to help us win.”

Aklinski could have returned to Kentucky for his senior season after being drafted in the 32nd round, but he felt like now was the right time to test the waters of professional baseball. Had he gone back to college, he would have lost all negotiating leverage following the season and not gotten anywhere near the reported $100,000 the Phillies gave him to forego his final season of college baseball.

He was a Junior College All-American in 2017 and the NJCAA Division II Defensive Player of the Year. At Kentucky he hit .304 with six home runs and 42 RBIs this spring. He also posted a .393 on-base percentage.

Other than making the postseason with the Wildcats, Aklinski decided he had accomplished everything he wanted to as a college baseball player and decided to sign with the Phillies. He understands the stigma which is attached to being drafted in the 32nd round, but he’s out to prove he’s more than capable of playing at a high level.

“Even though there’s a 32nd round next to my name and they picked me in the 32nd round, I want to show (the Phillies) that they got a steal,” Aklinski said. “I want to show them they picked a guy who plays the game the right way and knows how to play the game.”