Cal Baseball: Andrew Vaughn Tearing It Up So Far in the Minor Leagues
There will be a day, perhaps after he blossoms into a Major Leaguer, when Andrew Vaughn doesn’t remember much about the town of Kannapolis, North Carolina. This suburb of Charlotte has about 50,000 residents, and is best known as the home of the famed Earnhardt racing clan.
The fact is, Vaughn doesn’t know anything about the town right now. He’s been so busy playing for the Kannapolis Intimidators, the low-A farm team of the White Sox, that he hasn’t found time to wander downtown.
It won’t be confused with Chicago, which drafted Vaughn No. 3 overall out of Cal last month, and looks forward to him joining the big club. Someday.
“I can’t tell you when he’s going to get to the big leagues,” says Ryan Newman, born in Hayward, the son of one-time A’s player and manager Jeff Newman, and now manager of the Intimidators.
“But he’s going to get there,” Newman says. “The sky’s the limit for this kid.”
Vaughn was projected as the best all-around hitter in the 2019 draft, and the early returns are encouraging.
The White Sox initially assigned him to their Arizona rookie league team, but that wasn’t expected to be his home for long. As in, “Don’t bother unpacking your bag, kid.”
Vaughn toyed with pitchers there for three games, batting .600, and was put on a plane to North Carolina on the Fourth of July.
“We knew he was coming and we were excited,” Newman says.
Vaughn, twice an All-American as a first baseman at Cal, seems to be a guy who takes things as they come. And he says things have been great so far.
“It’s been amazing. The guys have just been phenomenal, welcomed me with open arms,” Vaughn says. “It’s been truly awesome.”
Newman had him in the Intimidators’ starting lineup on July 5, slotted at No. 3 in the lineup. In retrospect, probably not entirely fair, Newman acknowledges.
“He had traveled across the country the day before and there could have been a little jet lag,” Newman says.
Vaughn went 1 for 4, with three strikeouts in his Sally League debut, a 5-0 win over the Augusta Greenjackets.
“A little bump in the road the first game out,” Vaughn concedes. “I needed to slow the game down. The pitchers definitely have more velocity. It’s a little bit more of a challenge.”
Vaughn seems to be adjusting. In nine games since then, he has struck out just five more times. He took a .351 batting average into Tuesday night’s road game against the Hickory Crawdads, a 62-mile bus ride from Kannapolis.
Vaughn homered against the Greensboro Grasshoppers in his fourth game last week, and had a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth Saturday against the Rome Braves.
“Everything we heard about him . . . he’s definitely a professional hitter,” Newman says. “His approach, his stroke, his timing . . . he’s all over it.
“He’s got a really good idea in the box when he steps in there. He doesn’t let the pitcher dictate what he’s going to do.”
Newman says it’s his job right now to make Vaughn comfortable and allow him to become accustomed to the grind of professional baseball, where teams may play on 10 straight days. Mostly, he says, just stay out of Vaughn’s way.
It’s early, but Vaughn hasn’t felt effects of the grind yet. He’s happy to trade classes at Cal for nine innings on the field.
“This is the thing I love to do,” he says. “I love to get up every day and go to the yard. It really is a dream come true.”
Vaughn and the White Sox hope the best is yet to come. His next stop is expected to be the High-A level Winston-Salem Dash.
Another possible destination is the Double-A Birmingham Barons, perhaps best known as the team Michael Jordan played for during his hiatus from basketball, but also a past stop for Vida Blue, Bo Jackson and old-time Hall of Famer Pie Traynor.
(That club should not be confused with the Birmingham Black Barons, the former Negro League team made famous by Willie Mays and Satchel Paige).
No one has told Vaughn what might be next for him. “I have no idea what the future holds,” he says. “I’m just going after it every day. Play as hard as I can and see what happens.”
Selfishly, Newman says he’d love to keep Vaughn in his lineup for the rest of the season. He knows that’s not likely, and it’s not what’s best for Vaughn or the organization.
“This kid can hit,” the manager says. “He can be an impact player in the Major Leagues if he keeps doing what he’s doing.”