Swing it like you mean it
Story written by Eric Lomeli (el Don Sports Writer) featured in Sports section, April 25, 2011:
BASEBALL ATHLETE PROFILE:
In 2010, Gary Apelian carried 190 pounds on his lanky 6-foot 4-inch frame. By any stretch, he was one skinny dude. Since then, he has transformed his physique, and has become a serious home run threat every at bat and a nightmare to opposing pitchers.
Apelian knew he had to add muscle to generate more power, so in July he began an intense weightlifting regimen and improved his college student diet.
“I lifted weights last year, but I didn’t take it as serious as I do now,” Apelian said. He cut out junk food and sugar, began a high protein and carbohydrate intake, and now eats at least two meals a day at home.
“My dad has dinner ready when I get home and it’s usually chicken or steak and rice,” Apelian said. “Armenian rice pilaf with garbanzo beans, usually.” Both of Gary’s parents immigrated here about 35 years ago. Zeron, Gary’s father, is from Syria and Datevig, his mother, is from Lebanon.
Zeron cooks dinner because Gary’s mother works late hours at Win Hyundai in El Monte. The dealership, learning of Gary’s success, sponsored the baseball team with a $500 donation this season. Although he never played baseball, his father has been influential in Gary’s career.
“He learned baseball through watching a lot of Dodger games. He’s a great support, and has helped me a great deal,” Apelian said.
In the batter’s box Gary now stands in the middle-back with a slightly open stance, compared to last season when he used similar box placement but stood with a more closed stance. “I’m near the back of the box so I can have a little more time to judge the pitch,” Apelian said.
Gary converted to a 34-inch, 31-ounce TPX Omaha bat. Last season he swung a 33-inch, 30-ounce TPX Exogrid. NCAA rules, which went into effect this year, banned the Exogrid.
The transition was effortless, he said. His hitting ability is well known. He hits for average and power.
“Gary is our best hitter. He’s a weapon when it comes to hitting. Everyone is confident in him at the plate,” said freshman second baseman Andy Peterson.
Hitting is not the only thing Gary does well. He possesses a broad depth of baseball knowledge.
“Gary helped me work on becoming better, running better routes to the ball in the outfield, helping me tweak my swing. He’s always trying to make everyone better,” said Seth Smith, sophomore pitcher and outfielder.
Gary could not be the player he is today without a strong work ethic. “He is what coaches want in players,” Head Coach Don Sneddon said. “He works hard in the weight room, and in the batting cages. He has a lot of self-discipline. I don’t have to be there watching him. He wouldn’t be the player he is today with his self-discipline. It also helps that he doesn’t accept failure very well.”
Gary’s competitiveness is never in question. Teammates Taylor Richardson, Jordan Byrd, Peterson, and Smith all agreed Gary always strives to win and give his best on the field.
These characteristics are not only visible to players but coaches too.
“I like to watch what guys do with their downtime and Gary is always doing something productive,” Coach Tim Matz said.
At first glance, in 2010 Richardson and Byrd thought Gary looked like a goofball.
“He didn’t have the look of an athlete,” Richardson said.
Byrd added, “My first impression was, who is this kid? And then I saw him swing the bat.”
On the field, Gary just looks like a ball player. His pants are knee high, showing bright red socks. He puts a slight bend in his hat with upside down Oakley sunglasses resting on the bill, reminiscent of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
His three-year-old glove is a worn, black, 12-and-three-quarter-inch Rawlings Heart of the Hide with a six-finger pattern. He bats with red Rawlings Workhorse batting gloves, and sports size 12 Nike Air Show Elite 2 cleats. At his current size, 6-foot 4-inches and 205 pounds, he is an athletic specimen.
Multiple players and coaches believe Gary holds the keys to his future.
“Gary has next-level potential,” said Matz, the pitching coach.
To relax Gary goes hunting with his father and two brothers. They hunt for different types of fowl, including California Quail and Chuckar Partridge, taking about 15 hunting trips a year.
Gary, who graduated from Esperanza High School in 2009, played primarily third base and pitcher. In 2008, he moved to right field, his current position.
As a junior at Esperanza, Gary made Second-Team All-League, and as a senior, he made First-Team All-League.
Both years Gary was named to the all tournament team during the National Classic Tournament.
BY THE NUMBERS:
- 17 – Extra base hits in the Dons 2011 season
- 33 – Leads the team in RBI’s
- .351 – Batting average. Fourth best for the Dons
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