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QUÉBÉCOIS BASEBALL’S UNICORN: PHILIPPE AUMONT

QUÉBÉCOIS BASEBALL’S UNICORN: PHILIPPE AUMONT

A look back at the career of Quebec's very own, Philippe Aumont!

The name Philippe Aumont had been circulating for a while back in 2007. The then 18
y/o Gatineau native was part of the rotation that represented Canada in international
competition.


Even if Québécois baseball pundits knew his name would be called on MLB Draft day
2007, no one could have imagined that the Seattle Mariners would select the 6’7”,
245lbs giant with the 11th overall pick.


Never had a player from La Belle Province been taken in the first round and none has
accomplished the feat since. Not even close! The small world of baseball in Québec
was in a state of shock.


“How can a kid (a pretty big kid, mind you) from our back yard get his name posted
among 30 others that attended big time NCAA colleges or American High Schools?” was
the question everyone asked.


Under the “SCHOOL” column appears “École Du Versant” beside Philippe Aumont’s
name, a modest secondary school like many others in Quebec. The player chosen just
ahead of Aumont? Madison Bumgarner, by the San Francisco Giants. Yep, MadBum
himself!


A TRYING BUT SUCCESSFUL CAREER


It was the mix of a 96 MPH fastball and still developing 80-82 MPH slider that made
scouts flock to every Aumont outing. The three quarter angle he pitched from added
natural sink to the fastball, but also kept him from getting on top of his slider, a pitch he
struggled to command.


Aumont also developed elbow issues early on in his career, which pushed the Mariners’
brass to switch him over to the bullpen. When healthy his results seemed to
foreshadow a very bright future for the big right-hander.


After a season that saw him struggle with the walk bugaboo at the AA level, in
December 2009 Aumont is traded to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of the famous Cliff Lee deal.
The Phills were hoping to recover the dominant starter Philippe seemed destined to
become when he first hit pro ball.


But it was yet another return to the pen that sparked the most productive sequence of
Aumont’s career, culminating with his MLB debut in 2012. In total, he would appear in
46 games with the Phillies between 2012 and 2015, including 1 start. He would then
pitch in the minors for three more organizations (Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox
and Detroit Tigers) before announcing his retirement from baseball in 2016.

TAKING A STEP BACK


In reflecting upon his journey in pro ball, Aumont makes a stunningly honest
assessment: “I was always trying to be the ‘me’ I saw in the future and it kept me from
focusing on what I really had to work on. Always wanting to be two or three steps
ahead, I wasn’t concentrated on that (the process).”


That’s a story we’re used to hearing from coaches who see gifted prospects collapse in
the minors, but rarely do we ever hear it coming from the mouth of the athlete who
lived it.


This healthy step back allowed Aumont to reconnect with his love of the game, which in
turn motivated him to make a comeback.


The result: a stunningly successful season with the Ottawa Champions of the defunct
Can-Am League (8-4, 2.65 ERA, 118.2 IP, 145 SO and only 23 W)!


“I went back to the basics. Since I was player and pitching coach, I couldn’t just say
something and not do it on the field myself”, Aumont said, talking about the positive
results he enjoyed in 2019.


This coaching duty gave him a fresh perspective on the sport and sparked a newfound
passion for coaching: “I’ve been through it now, I’ve lived through a lot and I can talk
about all those experiences to the players, how you have to take control of your abilities
and not try to be someone else, and focus on one thing at a time.”


THE SURPRISING APPEAL OF ASIA


Now 30, Philippe is engaged to Frédérique. They are proud new parents of little 4
month old Gabrielle. This new family has forced dad to reorganize his priorities.
Fresh off a trip to Korea where he represented Canada at the Senior Baseball World
Championships (Premier 12 tournament), Aumont tells us his playing days are far from
over, although they may steer him in a surprising direction: Asia.


Even if the team wasn’t able to survive the preliminary round due to a flagrant lack of
offensive production, Aumont excelled on the mound and, most importantly,
thoroughly enjoyed his third trip to the biggest continent.


So much so, he is seriously considering relocating his family: “I have received offers from
MLB teams, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.”


He admits leaning toward Japan or Korea: “Seoul is an incredible city. We are
misinformed on life in that country. The crime rate is very low and the people are
wonderful.”

Family considerations aren’t all that explain this attraction for the Far East: “It’s a
different game than over here. They still play small ball, fundamental baseball, the kind
of game I enjoy most.” Aumont adds that MLB prospects are now taught to pitch
around the strike zone to miss bats, whereas during his entire career he worked on
throwing quality strikes.


GIVING BACK


Without knowing exactly what form it will take, Aumont is adamant: “I will come back to
live my life in Canada once my playing days are over.” He feels a debt of gratitude
toward the Canadian development system for a large part of his success. He also
emphasized how proud he is of his origins and how deeply he wishes to share his
knowledge and experience with young players here.


When asked about Baseball Quebec’s development program, Philippe seems convinced
they are on the right path, by offering elite players more visibility south of the border:
“If I have one piece of advice for young players, it is to take every opportunity offered to
them to be seen in the U.S., because that’s where it’s at. You have to have an open
mind and parents also must help their kids do their research.”


With the ABC development program just coming back from a showcase tour of
American colleges and players like Abraham Toro, Jesen Therrien and Charles Leblanc
sniffing the Majors, maybe someday we’ll be able to stop referring to a mystical animal
when referring to a first rounder from Quebec.

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