The effort associated with the term “work” can be an obstacle for some when it comes to improvement in performance. People may want to improve but not be willing to put in the hours to make a difference in their skills.For uncommitted 2021 right-handed pitcher Aidan Cooper of Heritage High School in Wake Forest, NC, work ultimately provided the road map for him to begin developing into the player he wants to be. The highly projectable righty has already started to see the pay-off results from his efforts, which simply drives him to work more.
At 6’5”, Cooper already had the physical frame to be a dominant pitcher when he joined the Dirtbags in the summer of 2019. He says the fastball velo at that time was routinely 82-82. A big moment for him recognizing the work needed to make a jump happened while in Florida with the Bags in the fall. Seeing another RHP for an opposing team with a similar build already committed to a DI mid-major pumping 88-92 flipped a switch for Cooper.
Realizing the opportunity before him meant identifying not only what needed to be done but also the level in which the work had to be executed. Aidan happened to already have some of the pieces in place. A weight training program provided by the Dirtbags coaching staff. A velo program with a coach who had proven results. A regiment of yoga and Pilates to promote flexibility. All together with more intentional work, the results began to show.
With work in so many interconnected areas a force to bring them together was needed. Aidan found this with mental growth. And he attributes a great deal of his mental improvements to the discipline demanded once he became a Dirtbag. Simply put, with the mental focus the work just became more productive.
For Cooper this discipline was found in even the smallest of things. He recognized how even having to be in full uniform upon entering the stadium or facility established a mindset and made a difference. Aidan remarked, “With the Dirtbags, you don’t just show up to play.”
A greater sense of calmness and “Zen” became a product of the yoga and Pilates sessions. The weight training put on muscle and the 6’5” frame easily held the 200 pounds he now carries. The velocity training made its impact and 9 months later Cooper found himself popping some fastballs in the upper 80’s.
Trey Daly, general manager for the Dirtbags captured the whole process when he recently said, “The first thing you notice about Aidan Cooper is the size, his length and the upside projectability of the frame. But you can have all the tools and look the part but if you don’t work it doesn’t matter. Hats off to Aidan because he has made jumps since the fall of 2019 and all the credit goes to him.”
Not only does Cooper have the projectability with the recent velo jump, he’s also got a style on the bump that makes him commanding. He does his business from the mound with a quick tempo and likes to go right at hitters, trying to beat them with his fastball. But don’t sell him short on being just a thrower. Aidan will use a three pitch mix (fastball, slider, splitter) along with nuances of his delivery, like his high leg kick, to outwit hitters and get them on their front foot. He’s not only developed a mental game, the kid has savvy.
The growth in these multiple dimensions of his game through the work has created an individual who seems to be in tune with himself. As Aidan puts it, “The fluidity of everything made it easier. I’m not tense about the next pitch. It’s a calmness.” (NOTE: Not many teenagers use words like “fluidity” or talk about “Zen” – Mr. Cooper has a clue about who he is and can articulate about it!)
This work and these improvements will be tested soon enough. With his Heritage Huskies kicking off their spring season, his arm will surely be a big part of their success. Cooper says he and his teammates have big hopes for this campaign and want to ultimately make a state championship run. The group is intentional about working towards coming together into a brotherhood to leave a legacy.
“We want to be the best versions of ourselves,” said the 17 year old right-hander.
The goals get even higher when he’s asked about what he wants to see happen in the summer of 2020 when he takes the mound as a Dirtbag with his squad. From collectively winning a WWBA to personally finding collegiate opportunities become available at the highest levels, he feels the cards are set to make both realities.
While he’s already had some interests from some DI programs, Cooper is hoping the upcoming performances coincide with the increased numbers and the major programs take notice. But that was always the plan when he decided to become a Dirtbag. He was well aware of the organization’s reputation and its ability to get players infront of the right colleges.
Being a Dirtbag has been those things but even more. When asked what it meant to be a Dirtbag, his response was, “It’s being a part of an organization that can get you better. Make you the best person. No matter how you come in, hold you to a higher standard. High standard. High reward.”
Happy to have guys like Cooper in the fold, Daly finished with, “We are excited to help him find a college baseball home. He’s 6’5” with a fastball that’s been in the upper 80’s. The right-hander has a high ceiling and we sure are lucky to have him on our side.”
Not only does Aidan Cooper show a work ethic and wisdom on the diamond, but he puts in the in work in the classroom too. With a noted interest in his high school’s pharm tech program, the junior says he could even see him pursuing some type of bio-mechanics study in college.
So it may seem Cooper may be satisfied with the strides and jumps he’s seen. Actually he’s not even close.
“Where I’m at is good, but not good enough,” he quipped.
The response only means it’s back to work for Aidan, and he’s more than OK with that.