When I watch Aubrey Huff launch a towering home run into the right-field stands (and beyond), as he has the past two games against the Rockies, I imagine him in his backyard in Mineral Wells, Texas.
When I talked with him recently in the Giants clubhouse, he drew a direct line from the batter’s box at AT&T to that backyard in Texas.
Aubrey’s father was working as an electrician at an apartment complex. A man there shot his wife and was taking aim at the apartment manager. Aubrey’s father tried to wrest the gun from the assailant’s hand. The gun went off and Aubrey’s father was killed. Aubrey was six years old.
Aubrey’s mother, Fonda, worked in the meat department of the local Winn-Dixie supermarket five days a week and attended Tarleton State University on her two days off. Her son, a shy and awkward kid, loved baseball from time he could walk. So when Aubrey was nine years old and asked for a batting cage and pitching machine in the backyard, Fonda got one, though everyone thought she was nuts to spend what little money she had on what seemed like an extravagant and frivolous purchase. Aubrey would be out in the cage until dark. Fonda put up lights. She heard her son out there late into the night.
“While other guys were out partying, I was taking swings,” Huff says.
After two years of community college, he went to the University of Miami, where he flourished, leading the Hurricanes in home runs and doubles his senior year.
When he was signed by Tampa Bay, his mother moved from Texas to St. Petersburg, where she works for the school system. She is still Aubrey’s biggest fan.
“Did she talk your ear off?” Huff asked when I say I called her. “Sometimes I just have to put the phone down the table. She can talk.” He laughs.
“She’s the best. She was an amazing mother to my sister and me growing up. Without her believing in me like she did,” Huff says, “I wouldn’t be here.”