All-Area Baseball Player of the Year: Proctor’s Aase sounds like a winner

If he keeps up his current three-sport production another year, Proctor's John Aase just might hear his name pronounced correctly by the time he graduates in 2017.When you consider he caught 32 passes for 777 yards and nine touchdowns, and return...

John Aase of Proctor is the Duluth News Tribune all-area baseball player of the year. Clint Austin /

If he keeps up his current three-sport production another year, Proctor’s John Aase just might hear his name pronounced correctly by the time he graduates in 2017.
When you consider he caught 32 passes for 777 yards and nine touchdowns, and returned four of his seven interceptions for TDs as a defensive back on a state tournament football team last fall; scored 20 hockey goals in the winter; and displayed five-tool talent on the baseball diamond this spring … well, Aase wouldn’t be wrong to play Rodney Dangerfield’s “respect” card.
For the record, his last name sounds like Ozzy, as in Osbourne - the Rails’ very own “Crazy Train.”
“It gets pronounced wrong almost every time,” he said last week at Terry Egerdahl Memorial Field.
All Aase can do is laugh about it, which mimics his demeanor when he toes the rubber. Aase controls what he can control. In the Rails’ Class AA state tournament opener, the left-handed junior made a pitcher’s pitch - low and away - only to watch Maple Lake’s Jack Seibert improbably pull a homer to left field for the 75-minute game’s lone run.
Aase regrouped and avoided further damage in that bottom of the sixth inning by recording two of his eight strikeouts. It’s baseball, he says, and stuff happens. Nothing you can do.
It was one of the few hiccups for Aase, whose fingerprints were all over Proctor’s 19-win, Lake Superior Conference and Section 7AA championship season. He won seven of those games on the mound, where he posted a 2.15 ERA and struck out 69 in 55 1/3 innings. His offensive impact was just as pronounced, with a .397 batting average, five homers and 28 RBIs.
“There are very few kids in the area that affected a ballgame as much as he did,” Rails coach Kyle Wojtysiak said.
In addition to being named Section 7AA player of the year, as well as All-LSC first team, Aase is the News Tribune’s 2016 All-Area Player of the Year.
This latest accolade caps a breakthrough 2015-16 for the 6-foot, 170-pound standout, whose athleticism and speed (under 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash) make him an attractive college recruit, whether in baseball or football. For starters, he’s a smooth-throwing left-handed pitcher, and demand for those never runs dry. Aase’s fastball creeps up into the mid-80s, but his slight frame hints at untapped velocity. He’s also a power-hitting outfielder - Aase put together a four-game homer streak this spring - who doesn’t strike out much and gets on base a ton.

On the gridiron, tremendous hand-eye coordination allowed Aase to haul in countless highlight-reel catches from Jake Malec, his best buddy and a North Dakota State baseball commit. Aase wouldn’t mind joining Malec in Fargo, N.D., someday.
Fortunately for him, college coaches love multi-sport athletes.
“He’s definitely got a bright future ahead of him if he gets everything in line and figures out which route he wants to take, because he has opportunities in all three sports, in my opinion,” Wojtysiak said.
Aase the pitcher was at his best late in the year. He capped Proctor’s unblemished sprint through the section playoffs by holding Aitkin to three hits and two runs - none earned - in a 12-2 five-inning victory. His next start was even better, when he went blow for blow with Maple Lake’s Hunter Malachek in a classic pitcher’s duel that left Aase, who gave up four hits over six innings in the Class AA quarterfinals, the hard-luck loser.
That outing marked the southpaw’s fifth complete game in nine starts, the average of which was about six innings. For his three-year varsity career, Aase has nine complete games in 16 starts and a 2.11 ERA. This is a kid who doesn’t like to hand the ball over.
“At the beginning of the year, it was kind of cold, so they weren’t letting me throw as many pitches, which kind of stunk because it’s fun completing a game, mowing kids down and you get into a groove,” Aase said. “As the season went on, that’s what started happening.”
Aase likes to attack the strike zone with his fastball but tries to avoid becoming predictable. Even though he averaged better than a strikeout per inning, he isn’t afraid to put the ball in play and let his defense, a strength for Proctor, do its job.
“He was definitely a workhorse for us this year,” Wojtysiak said of his efficient ace.
Aase admits he still thinks about Seibert’s home run, which cleared the fence at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud by “three or four feet,” he said. The two talked after being named to the all-tournament team, and Seibert, who will play at St. Scholastica, told Aase he didn’t homer once during the regular season before binging on five of them in the postseason.
“I guess he just had a hot bat,” Aase said. “That’s what happens.”
That won’t be his lasting memory, though. Instead, Aase can recall pitching the Rails past Duluth Denfeld on May 24 to clinch the LSC crown, overwhelming Aitkin to secure the program’s fourth trip to state or hurling a gem in St. Cloud. It was a heck of a ride.
How much fun did tight-knit Proctor have?
“We even made (Wojtysiak) smile,” Aase joked of his even-keeled coach.

PDF: 2016 News Tribune All-Area Baseball Team

What To Read Next
Get Local