"Playing club ball was when I realized that I loved playing baseball. [With] nonstop baseball and playing year-round, [I knew] I loved doing this,” said Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community youth Aaron Makil. Makil, 16, who is the son of Community members Jason and Rebecca Makil, is a junior at Westwood High School. His passion and love for baseball is his driving force. Who knows, we might just see him play in Yankee Stadium one day.
Yes, he is only 16, but Makil is a natural athlete who has baseball experience most teens his age might not ever get. He plays various positions on the field: shortstop, pitcher, and when needed, second base, third base or outfield. He’s a team leader who also looks to family and his supporters to help keep him humble. What more do you need to make it big, you might ask? Most professional athletes state that it takes time, dedication, hard work and faith. This is exactly what Makil has. Will he follow Jacoby Ellsbury, who is of Native heritage, into Major League Baseball?
First Taste of Baseball
“Aaron started playing T-ball with his older sister. He did whatever she did,” said Aaron’s mother, Rebecca. Makil received his first taste of competitive baseball at age 6, when his older sister’s little league coach asked Rebecca if Makil could be the bat boy. “I agreed. So I dropped him off for a game and I came back when the game was going to start. I was looking around, and Aaron was out in left field! He was tiny too, he was really small. We found [out then] that at an early age he could throw, he could catch and just [do] the basics. He wasn’t scared.”
Makil became part of the team at that young age. “After that, they just included him. He could hit, he wasn’t scared to be out there, and he just started playing,” said Rebecca. To think, a coach who asks a 6-year-old boy to be on a little-league team, and this one opportunity ignites a fire for baseball in the boy. Some might say this was by coincidence; some might say it was fate.
After three years of little league, it was time to move up. At age 9, Makil knew this was what he wanted to do and considered playing club ball.
“At that time, [Community youth] Kaya Hayes was going to try out for club ball, and he knew Aaron had played as well, so he asked Aaron if he wanted to play. We knew nothing about club ball. It was something new, but Aaron just loved to play. Since then, it’s been year-round since he was 9,” said Rebecca. Makil played for a team out of East Mesa, Arizona’s Finest, for two years.
At age 11, Aaron moved up to the Sandlot Bulldogs, a team out of Chandler, where he played for four more years. With each year, he gained more experience and more passion. The tiny little-league player was now starting high school at Westwood.
“At 15 and a freshman, Aaron started playing varsity [baseball]. He played about two or three games with the freshmen, but [the coach] knew he could play, so they brought him up to varsity. His freshman year, he played varsity. He got his letter as a freshman. He’s just continued to play varsity ever since,” said Rebecca.
“He’s competitive, but when he’s on a team he encourages. He doesn’t get mad at people; he gets mad at himself. He’s a perfectionist where he knows he can do it, so he pushes himself, gets frustrated with himself. It’s neat because he still encourages other people while doing so. He shows those leadership skills. He’s grown up a lot,” said Rebecca.
The Arizona Fall Classic
Every year, an international showcase tournament known as the Arizona Fall Classic is held here in the Valley. This tournament is by invitation only and is open only to juniors in high school with baseball talent. This tournament attracts recruiters, coaches and pro scouts with hopes of finding talented players to add to their team. This year, Makil was invited to play with a national team, Lasorda University, which is coached by Logan White, who is a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The tournament helped Makil gain more exposure and publicity. He has received inquiries from various colleges and universities from around the nation. A scout also commented that Aaron had some of the best shortstop hands around.
“The guys there were all good, and we all want the same thing. We all had to give it 100 percent on the field. I worked hard and had fun,” said Makil about his experience during the Arizona Fall Classic.
Each recruiter, coach and scout is different. They have different expectations, but that means that anyone, tall or small, can make it.
Makil has big dreams he would like to fulfill. He wants to get an education while playing for Arizona State University and one day play for the New York Yankees. He is still undecided as far as a major in college, but he has plenty of time. He also stays on top of his education, understanding that athletics and academics go hand in hand.
“I try really hard to maintain good grades in school. I’m doing good right now with a 3.6 GPA,” said Makil.
Through baseball, Aaron has traveled to places such as North Carolina, California, Las Vegas and more. He has also won numerous awards throughout the years, with his favorite and most meaningful award being the “golden spikes” award (most valuable player) in which he received as a sophomore in high school for the 2014 baseball season.
Makil’s role models include his father and uncle. He said, “My dad played when he was younger. He’s done what I’ve done. I kind of want to be better than he was, so that pushes me. My uncle is always there for me. He comes out whenever he can. When I do something good, he’ll always tell me and hug me. It makes me feel good about myself.
Makil hopes to encourage other youth in the Community. “Maybe if they see me and see what I can do, maybe they’ll want to do this sometime. Hopefully I can just be an encouragement for them.” He also offered this advice: “Keep working, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not going to make it. If you put the time and effort into it, you will go somewhere as long as you work hard. Stay determined, dedicated and work hard.”
Makil continues to give baseball his all. He’s still one and a half hours early to all his games, he’s still working hard in school, he’s playing in tournaments regularly, and, for a 16-year-old, he shows plenty of dedication and determination.
“I’m competitive and fearless. I just want to have a good future. I’m trying to start right now, that way if I do go somewhere, I’ll have the same mentality. You never know when your hard work will pay off, so I work hard at everything I do. If I don’t make it, I can’t say I didn’t try hard enough.”