Willem Aldrich, bottom left, was part of the 2016 Blizzard team that won it's 51st championship in Las Vegas, NV in Feb.
Dedicated is an understatement when talking about what Willem Aldrich means to the Minnesota Blizzard Elite baseball program.
Aldrich has devoted more time to the program on and off the field than anybody could even imagine. The Duluth East senior travels roughly six hours every weekend to make all the practices, scrimmages and games that his 18U team plays in. And this is not just a one year thing for Aldrich. As a seven-year veteran who started at the age of thirteen, he has been an extremely loyal player throughout his entire career.
Aldrich, who is committed to play baseball at Iowa Central CC is known for his versatility on the diamond. Primarily a third baseman, he is also very capable of taking lead behind the plate as well as commanding a game from the mound. The 5’11” infielder threw 86 MPH during his infield session at the Scout Stop (video/report here) showcase this past season.
From the left side of the plate, he has established himself as a consistent middle of the lineup hitter year after year for the Blizzard. And there is no denying that he knows his ability as a hitter.
“The strongest aspect of my game is my offense. Coach Barta has always said I'm a hitter first and fielder second. I love having the twig when the pressure is on.”
On the field, Aldrich will certainly catch the eyes of those watching, but his off the field actions are what make him everything a coach would want in a ball player and a person. Coach Adam Barta spoke on what Aldrich means to Blizzard.
“He is a selfless player," Barta said. "He has made a huge impact on our Blizzard family by being committed, being a role model for our younger players and has done everything I have ever asked him. I owe him a lot."
Aldrich is a two time recipient of the “Jake Kuschke” Leadership award. The award is given out to the player that demonstrates himself as a great teammate, a leader to all ages and is a great student and hard worker. His leadership really became evident after teammate John Price passed away in the fall. His on the field and off the field actions by being the one to lean on set the standards for what it means to play for Johnny and how to represent the Blizzard Elite program.
We had time catch up with Aldrich for a short Q&A.
1. As a seven-year veteran of the program, how has Blizzard helped mold you into the player and person you are today?
Blizzard has changed me a lot. The program really has helped me with the mental side of the game. If you can stay cool and collected in baseball the sport of failure, you are set up for a good life. And of course all of the skills I need to be a successful baseball player have been fine-tuned and brought out.
2. You are a two-year recipient of the "Jake Kuschke" Leadership award, what does it mean to you to be honored with that award?
I am very humbled to have won the leadership award. To me, it says that I was making a difference out there in-between the white lines and that what came out of my mouth was heard and was meaningful to my teammates.
3. Growing up through the program, how important is it to you to be a mentor and good role model for younger Blizzard players?
It's very important. When you’re younger, you need a role model. You need direction and a goal. If a kid’s goal is to be like you then you have succeeded.
4. John Price, a teammate and friend of yours tragically passed away in the fall. As a leader of the team and a friend of John's, how did you rally the team together and stay focused during the hard times? What does it mean to play for John?
I just tried to give the boys comfort and since Johnny was a winner; we had to do one thing - we had to win. That's how we stayed focused. And I think it helped a lot that his jersey and glove were in the dugout. And winning that last tournament for John was the highlight of my career. I will never forget that team because we did something great. John would have been proud and I know the pain of losing such a great kid will last eternal but that moment made the pain hurt a little less.
6. Playing a sport where superstition and rituals are very common among players, is there anything that you do before or during games that maybe only your teammates know about that gets you ready for the game?
Oh, yes! I put on everything on left side first. Not just in baseball but every day. Left cleat first, left pant leg first, I even get a little tilt to the left with my hat. And the ultimate reason behind it is LEFT IS THE WIN COLUMN!
7. What has been your favorite Blizzard tournament to play in?
All of them. Every time I get to see and spend time with the guys is when it’s the best. But I would have to say the 51st championship (the last tournament played this year in Utah) for the Blizzard program is one of my favorites to be a part of. That was special for the whole program.
You are special, too, Willem !
'Drew' Colvard is a sophomore outfielder at the College of St. Scholastica and is quickly becoming a standout after a freshman that saw him earn Academic All-UMAC honors.
At Roseville High School, he was an All-conference selection and was named his team's MVP twice. He batted .404 and had a 0.98 ERA. He was a two-year captain in baseball and hockey and earned All-Metro selections in both hockey and baseball.
Colvard is majoring in communications and will be a contributing writer for the Minnesota Blizzard this year.