MIDDLEBURG - Former Middleburg High baseball standout A.J. Gill got a very rare Major League Baseball contract last week when the hefty bat from Clay County signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox.
“I’ve thought of this situation for long time and have never backed down from thinking that I could play professional ball,” said Gill. “I’m super pumped up to get out there.”
Gill, a utility player while at Middleburg under coach Daniel Pearce with playing time on multiple positions, has been creating a name for himself as a formidable batter’s box presence at Aurora University in Illinois and that’ what got him the look.
“I think maybe 10-15 NCAA Division III guys get a chance to get picked up by the Major Leagues,” said Gill, now 22. “I’ve just been working my skill set to be ready and able to play at any position at any time.”
Aurora’s storied history features 22 appearances in the NCAA Div. III tournament and two consecutive regional appearances the past two seasons with a three-seed last year.
In 2019, Gill, on a team with massive hitting statistics for their top three batters, was hitting .363 with nine doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 45 runs scored and 52 runs batted in.
Gill, a second baseman at Middleburg for the better part of his high school days, moved to the outfield when he got to Aurora via Blackburn College mainly due to a solid infield lineup.
“Aurora had a pretty strong infield unit when I got there, but the coaches wanted my bat so I played some outfield,” said Gill, step-brother to Middleburg High’s twins of Luke and Logan Padgett and part of the Padgett athletic genetic pool that has been present in Middleburg sports for decades. “I had a pretty good throwing arm and played both corners most of the time; mainly left field and then some infield. I was ready when they asked and made the most of the opportunity.”
Gill, a senior, hit .333 with two home runs and 14 RBI in 11 games this spring with Aurora posting a 9-2 record. During the full 2019 season (35-11, lost 10-9 in 11 innings to Washington University-St. Louis in third game of NCAA tournament), he was just as impressive with nine doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 52 RBI, and .337 average in 46 games.
Gill was named a 2019 All-Region (Midwest) First-Team outfielder by D3baseball.com, and an American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), and Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) First-Team outfielder. He was also named a 2020 Second-Team preseason All-American by D3baseball.com.
Ironically, Gill remembered facing Oakleaf High’s Chris Mauloni, who recently signed with the Detroit Tigers.
“I got a hit, but he struck me out twice,” said Gill. “He was pretty strong back then. It’s good to see him sign on also.”
Gill thinks the White Sox expect his bat to become productive quickly.
“They were talking about me playing a few different spots; five specifically, so I can get in and hit,” said Gill. “Right now, we are still on hold until September for instructional camp in Glendale, Arizona. That’s the plan right now, but the COVID-19 thing has everything in limbo.”