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Vaughn shows hometown fans how his MLB dream came true

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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OAKLAND, Calif. — Andrew Vaughn's rookie season has been defined by a constant focus, a consistent professional approach.

But things weren't always this way for the Northern California native.

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"When we came here, I was too young," the Chicago White Sox rookie said of the Oakland Coliseum during a Thursday interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "My dad would bring us here. ... I don't remember any of the outcomes of any games.

"We always had to leave early because I was tired of watching it. I got bored and wanted to go home. ... I'd watch for as long as I could, and the attention span would just go."

Vaughn wasn't exactly a unique little kid in that regard, and he admitted to being someone who preferred running to the concession stands to soaking in the intricacies of the game.

Asked to provide his most memorable moment attending games in this ballpark, Vaughn didn't even come up with anything baseball-specific past a faint recollection of catching one-time Oakland Athletics outfielder Jonny Gomes in action.

What he did come up with also involved leaving early.

"I don't remember where we were sitting, but I got a giant splinter stuck under my toenail here when I was like 5 years old," Vaughn recalled. "I pulled it out and ended up having to leave the game because I was in so much pain.

 

"I was also 5, so I probably complained a little too much for my parents and they said, 'We're having enough with this.'"

So Vaughn's come a long way.

Though mired in a stretch of struggles at the moment — he's got just four hits in his last 13 games after a third straight oh-fer in Oakland on Thursday — Vaughn has not changed one bit, still garnering the same rave reviews he did back in the spring for the way he carries himself at the plate.

"These last two days are the only times since the first day of spring training that he hasn't played like a veteran," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said before Thursday's game. "Because he had a bunch of friends and family here, he tried to do too much, so he did less. But before that he's just been iron-clad as far as concentration and improvement.

"Really would be hard-pressed to find an example like him where (with) that little of professional experience, to come in here for a team that's contending, and he's in the .240s with RBIs, big hits. I don't know of anybody that I know that's done that with that little of experience.

"This guy's got a real strong mind. That's going to make for a very strong career."

Indeed, this week has been a little different for Vaughn, who got to play his first games as a major leaguer in his home region, the Coliseum a little more than an hour's drive from his hometown of Santa Rosa. The stands were littered with No. 25 "Vaughn" jerseys and shirseys, tons of family and friends in attendance throughout the three-game set.

He greeted the Cal baseball team Wednesday night, still young enough to have played with some of its current members during his own college days. But mostly, he was thrilled to show the people he loves, in person, that his dream came true.

"They're proud of me," he said. "So many people had an impact on my career that were able to come out. Just to be able to thank them has been really special.

"They're my people, they're my favorite people, and it doesn't matter what level I'm at, it's just great to see them under any circumstance."

While Vaughn might not have been paying super close attention as a kindergartner, there was one thing he noticed when he looked out onto a big league field: that he wanted to be on it.

"That was always the goal. As soon as I started playing baseball, that was the dream, to be a major league player," he said. "I'm fortunate enough to have that dream come true."

What's helped that happen is that consistent approach, that consistent mentality, the thing that struck La Russa way back in the spring and has been at the top of the list of Vaughn's best attributes throughout his rookie season.

Even now, with the rookie in a bit of a slump, he's showing off what he does best: stay the same.

 

"My biggest thing is to stay me all the time and try not to get outside myself," he said. "When things are going good, just stay even-keeled. When things are going bad, just stay even-keeled and keep following the process, no matter what's going on.

"I pride myself on being a good teammate. I just want to be the guy that shows up. 'I have your back, and you have my back.' That's important to me. I just want to go out and be myself and do my part to help this team win games."

Vaughn did that plenty in the early going, and he's earned the opportunity to do it as the games get as important as they ever have been for the first-year big leaguer. The White Sox are just a handful of wins away from clinching the American League Central title, and once the calendar flips to October, they'll be chasing the game's biggest prize.

We'll have to wait to see if the A's make a late-season run and reach the playoffs, or if the White Sox are fortunate enough to meet the best-in-the-NL Giants in the World Series, if Vaughn gets a shot to play postseason baseball in front of the same family and friends who watched him this week. If not, he'll have to wait till next season, when the White Sox make their annual visit to Oakland and a less frequent Interleague visit to San Francisco, to see his people again.

But this week provided the opportunity to show off that he's still the same guy — even if the defensive position has changed — something those closest to him surely recognized and something the White Sox have been thrilled to see through the personal ups and downs of his rookie campaign.

"I was actually talking to a couple of my buddies about this yesterday," Vaughn said, "that baseball's such a great game and it can bring so many people closer together that haven't seen each other for a long time.

"It's pretty special."

The White Sox believe they've got a special one on their hands.

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