Apr. 16—HIGH POINT — Ben Aklinski needed a change of scenery.
The Rockers were happy to provide the new venue.
As a rookie last season, Aklinski was one of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball's leading hitters, batting .290 with 105 runs scored, 123 hits, 21 doubles, 28 homers and 105 runs batted in as he helped the Lexington Legends win the ALPB championship.
The problem was he had already spent a season in the Kentucky capitol city.
He played for the University of Kentucky in 2018, was signed by the Phillies organization, spent the rest of that year and 2019 in the minors and was released after COVID-19 shut things down in 2020. He was working on finishing his degree when the Legends called.
"I was pretty much done with baseball when I heard from them," Aklinski said. "I had a good year with Lexington, and now I'm here this year."
When the season was over, Aklinski decided he needed to play somewhere else. Aklinski said his decision to make that place High Point was in part because he developed a rapport with Rockers manager Jamie Keefe last season.
See Rockers/Page B6
"It seemed we played the Rockers two weeks at a time," Aklinski said. "I got to know some of the players. When I played third base, Jamie and I had non-stop conversations. It was a perfect fit for me. I'd played two years in Lexington, and it was time for me to turn the page and turn the chapter."'
Keefe said he jumped at the chance to put more pop to an already potent Rockers lineup. Aklinski ranked second in the league in RBIs, second in runs and fourth in home runs and was tied for ninth in hits. In addition to his hitting ability, Aklinski is also a versatile defensive player.
"He can play short, second and third and all three outfield positions," Keefe said. "He's a younger version of (Stephen) Cardullo. He has a good approach at the plate. He scored 105 runs last year. That plays for me. I want the guy that crossed the plate more than anyone else. I break the game of baseball into little pieces. He helped a team win a championship last year. He knows what he's doing."
Keefe's record as a winning manager who helps players get opportunities with Major League organizations also was a draw for Aklinski. Keefe topped the 900-win mark as an independent league manager last season.
"His reputation precedes him every step of the way," Aklinski said. "From talking to guys about him and talking to him myself, it was a pretty good fit."
Aklinski also liked what he saw when he played in Truist Point stadium last season.
"I was fortunate to play well when I was here last season," Aklinski said. "It's a beautiful park. They always draw a good crowd. The fans are fun here, so I'm looking forward to it."
firstname.lastname@example.org — 336-888-3519