WOODSTOCK — Sometimes a step back can give athletes a new perspective and that’s exactly what happened to Aidan Nagle.
The Woodstock River Bandit suffered a concussion in early March after being involved in a car crash. He had to miss three games for Cuesta College, located in San Luis Obispo, California. He said that having to sit on the bench gave him a new outlook on baseball.
“I kind of realized how boring life was without baseball,” Nagle said. “And I was like well, ‘I’m just going to make the most of it while I can because I didn’t have anywhere to go. Then I just started playing good. I started feeling a lot better, started enjoying coming to the field a lot more. And I’m really thankful for it all.”
He said he had been stressing about things too much and the time away made him focus and relax more.
“I was just watching my team play and some things that went wrong and some things that could have been done better,” Nagle said. “It kind of just made me realize what I could actually do. I just started to focus more. I just tried to be a lot more loose and enjoy it. Having fun playing, instead of pressing all the time about winning and doing good. That was kind of really it. I started caring about my teammates a lot more. Things started looking up and haven’t stopped.”
After coming back from the concussion, Nagle batted .446 (33-for-74) with two homers, 12 runs scored and 23 RBIs in 20 games.
Once Nagle’s hitting started to take flight, Woodstock head coach Mike Bocock heard about his success. Nagle’s father was originally from West Virginia and Woodstock assistant coach Paul Ackerman knew of his father and encouraged Bocock to try to bring him to Woodstock.
Nagle, who is from Santa Rosa, California, said his dad was aware of the Valley Baseball League and they decided it would be a good place for him to play. He said the area is very different from his hometown.
“The humidity’s kind of getting to me but I’m dealing with it,” Nagle said. “But I’m trying to enjoy it because I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. And I might as well make the best of it while I’m here. The people are great. I love the people, the food’s good.”
Nagle hasn’t let the heat slow him down. He’s batting .427 (44-for-103), which is second in the VBL behind teammate Caleb Ward. Nagle also has four homers, 18 RBIs and seven stolen bases.
Bocock said Nagle has been a big part of the team’s success.
“He’s probably one of the best hitters in the league and one of the best hitters I’ve had,” Bocock said. “When I say that — that’s 27 years worth — that’s pretty good. He hits in the 2-hole for us and he does what he needs to do. He sets the table, he cleans the table. He’s a good teammate. That’s one of the things that is a key, too. I think he gets along with all of the guys.”
Bocock said Nagle reminds him a lot of one of his former VBL players — Daniel Murphy, who now plays for the Colorado Rockies.
“Danny Murphy, a tremendous hitter, and (Nagle’s) that same kind of hitter,” Bocock said. “A left-handed hitter, very loose. That’s his biggest asset — he’s very loose. He’s just starting to be a complete hitter. He’s learning too. Sometimes he’ll come back (in the dugout) and process it and say man, I shouldn’t have swung at that pitch.”
When the VBL season is over, Nagle will get ready for his first year at Lewis-Clark State College, which is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school in Lewiston, Idaho. Lewis-Clark State College was the national runner-up in the NAIA last season and Nagle said he’s excited to play for the team.
“Luckily they reached out to me towards the end of the year and gave me a scholarship and I took it,” Nagle said. “I went up there and I visited. I loved the area. I loved the field, the environment they have there. And I’m really excited to go there next year and win a championship with them. It’s like (Woodstock) kind of as far the town size. The town was great at the baseball games. The town turned out and they loved it. There was definitely good support. It will be cool. I’m excited for it.”
Nagle said that he will be playing in the outfield for Lewis-Clark, which will be his third different position in three years. Nagle started out as a catcher with Cuesta, but after suffering a broken hand in his first year there he moved to first base. He has been playing in the outfield for the River Bandits to get ready for the upcoming season for Lewis-Clark. Nagle said he enjoys playing different positions.
Nagle and Ward have been battling for the league lead in batting all season, but Nagle said the pair doesn’t have any kind of rivalry going. Nagle said he’s glad that Ward is also having a lot of success.
Nagle said that he tries to keep a good approach at the plate and he’s just as happy to get a single as an extra-base hit.
“I’m usually looking for a good pitch to hit, definitely probably something middle of the zone, middle-awayish,” he said. “And I’m just trying to drive it right back at the pitcher every single time. And if it’s a single I don’t care. I’ll take a single every day of the week. I’m just trying to get on base any way I can, honestly.”
The River Bandits are 14-12 and in second place in the North Division, just 4.5 games behind first-place Strasburg.
Nagle said he believes the team can finish the season strong and make a postseason run. Nagle said the team chemistry is good and he thinks that will be a key to their success.
“I think all the guys like each other,” Nagle said. “We’re learning more about each other every day. Everybody gets along. I think we all want the same thing — to win baseball games and enjoy our time out here. And when guys struggle I think the team does a good job of keeping them positive and keeping them contained within themselves. And I think that is a good recipe for a winning ballclub.”