By STEVE KRAH
Aaron Bond has watched his baseball career bloom the past couple of years.
Heading into his senior season at South Bend Clay High School in the spring of 2015, the left-handed swinger barely knew the feeling of hitting the ball over the fence.
“My whole life I had like two home runs,” says Bond, who used a combination of strength and bat speed to triple that number that season with encouragement from Colonials head coach Joel Reinebold. “He always pushed me to try to do a little better each time.”
Bond came away with a scholarship offer from the elite junior college program in Houston.
After four varsity seasons at Clay, he played the outfield for the San Jac Coyotes in 2016 and 2017.
The first year Bond was selected in the 39th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals and did not sign, opting to go back to San Jacinto for his sophomore season.
Tom Arrington is the Coyotes head coach.
“He was strict but he always kept us relaxed,” says Bond of Arrington. “He told jokes. It was good playing for him.”
“We’d come to practice everyday looking to get better,” says Bond. “We’d challenge each other. (San Jac) should be really good (in 2018).”
Center Grove High School graduate Jacob Cantleberry, a left-handed pitcher, went to San Jac and recently committed to the University of Missouri.
After his two junior college seasons, Bond signed and went to play in the rookie-level Arizona League. In 41 games and 147 at-bats, he hit .306 with eight homers, 31 runs batted in and 50 strikeouts.
“I learned a lot,” says Bond. “If you have a bad day, look to the next day. There are a lot opportunities. You clear your head and play again.
“It’s a work in progress. I still have a lot to learn.”
Most of his defensive time in the AZL was spent in left field, where he got to show off his arm and athleticism.
Bond, 20, has been back in South Bend for a little over a month after attending instructional league in the fall.
He will gain more knowledge about the Giants organization when he travels to San Francisco Saturday, Dec. 9, to start a five-day rookie camp.
When he gets back he will resume sessions four or five days a week in Elkhart with former Notre Dame baseball and football player Evan Sharpley at Sharpley Training.
“I’ve been been working out so I can gain a little weight, some bat speed and get a little faster,” says Bond. “He’s kicking my butt so far.”
At 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, Bond says he would like to be at 205 by the time he goes to Arizona for spring training in March.
“I need to eat more,” says Bond. “I need to get more protein.”
Bond was 5-of-8 in stolen base attempts for the AZL Giants.
“That’s something I’ve got to get better at,” says Bond. “I need to get a better jump. I was a good baserunner — going first to third on a base hit.”
Bond began playing for Chicago-based Prairie Gravel and coach Al Oremus toward the end of the summer after his junior year at Clay.
His high school summers up to that point were spent with the Indiana Land Sharks.
Before that, he played one season with the Niles (Mich.) Sluggers following two with the Raptors travel team. He got his start as a player at Chet Waggoner Little League in South Bend.
Aaron got interested in bat-and-ball sports by watching his father play fast pitch softball. Charles and Angela Bond have three sons. Alex (25) and U.S. Marines veteran Alonzo (22) both attend Ivy Tech in South Bend. Aaron is two online classes short of a general studies degree at San Jac.
Aaron Bond, a 2015 South Bend Clay High School graduate, played two seasons at San Jacinto College North in Texas and signed in 2017 with the San Francisco Giants organization. He is a left-swinging outfielder. (San Francisco Giants Photo)