He was a 24th round draft pick. Twenty-four. Out of St. John's in New York, he was selected by the Texas Rangers as a guy who had adequate fielding skills, but was not so good with the bat. Because the Rangers saw that he wouldn't be anymore than an average, or even a below average, player, they dropped him like a hot potato before allowing him to see any action in the majors.
San Francisco picked him up, and he's never left this ballclub since then. Not only has he stayed as a franchise player for the Giants, but since being traded over here, he's made an All-Star start in 2001, which proved to be his offensive breakout year. He shattered the charts in almost every offensive category in 2001 as a shortstop, and also joined the great names of Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds that year with 200 hits as the third Giant to accomplish that feat in a season. How about that for the 24th round pick who can't swing his bat?
Aurilia may not be a Gold Glover, but he has reduced his number of errors since the twenty-eight he committed in 1999. Since then, his errors went down every season: twenty-one in 2000, seventeen in 2001, and just eleven in 2002. Due to injuries and such, Aurilia's glove had a difficult season... But this article is about Aurilia's offense, not defense, so I digress.
Now, Aurilia's #1,000 wasn't too impressive. It wasn't a hot potato into the bleachers, nor was it a game winning knock... But it was a hit. His 1,001st hit that came later in the game was a lot more impressive: A left centerfield gapper double. But, Aurilia will take it, and so will I.
I was standing in the right field arcade, pathetically holding my eight and a half by eleven (inches, mind you) sign that read "Hit #1,000 to me Richie!" And through two at-bats, he was hitless. Still, I wasn't about to give up. Everytime #35 went up to bat, I would whip out my little sign, urging Richie to make his 1,000th mark.
Then it happened. What I was waiting for the entire night, happened. I watched an ugly grounder that bounced first in front of home plate, then it zipped past the pitcher's mound, and through the middle infielders and into centerfield.
I scream. I jumped. I yelled. I whooped. I hollered. I did everything possible to make myself seen and heard, all the while embarassing the people I was with. I repeated, "That's 1,000 baby! THAT'S ONE THOUSAND!!!"
And while the other 42,000 people in the stadium had no idea what just happened, they applauded Aurilia for getting a base hit, then turned their attention to the next batter. I was going crazy, and the two friends who I was with shared in my joy, only knowing what happened because I've been raving about it all week.
Then finally, they displayed "Aurilia's 1,000th Career Hit" on the jumbo-tron, and everyone got on their feet. They showed Aurilia on the jumbo-tron, and this emotional player was on the verge of tears. He waved to the crowd and tipped his helmet after smiling at first base coach, Luis Pujols. Even the Dodger first baseman stuck out his hand to congratulate Aurilia. One thousand is a darn big number.
Aurilia will be the first to tell you that there are probably many players who have 1,000 career hits, but how many have had them with one team? How many have accomplished that with the Giants? Don't bother to answer those questions, because I could care less. I had a big urge to savor the moment, to want to freeze this moment so I could have stored it away for future days.
The significance? Besides it meaning a lot to this Giants fan, personally, it just tells you how important Aurilia has been to this team. All 1,000... Every single one has been in orange and black.
Next up? Two thousand? Unlikely. Aurilia's in his ninth year, and since he will be a free agent after this season, the next milestone may not be in a Giants' uniform, and the next milestone will not be 2,000. Five hundred more? Possible. Achievable. Maybe.
But until the next time Aurilia makes his mark in the record books, and whatever his future accomplishments may be, we here in San Francisco have been, still are, and will be, grateful for having such a talented player and person spend his prime years as an important part of this ballclub for so long.
Help the boys bring it home, Richie.
Sara Kwan was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. She currently writes game recaps, other articles, and is the Giant Prophet for SFDugout.com. Any comments or questions about the article, baseball, or the meaning of life can be sent to Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org
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