A once timid freshman, Aidan Espinoza has blossomed into a passionate leader, but deserving of some credit for his growth: his father and the adversity he has faced.
From the start of their high school careers, Aidan Espinoza and close friend Raffaele “Ralphy” Velazquez were shy.
“We didn’t really ever talk to anyone,” Aidan Espinoza said. “We let all the big guys handle the work on the field.”
Participating in practice, sitting in the dugout during games, and watching others play was the routine. However, as Aidan Espinoza has developed, his confidence has grown. Part of the reason for his development is the lessons his father, Jesus Espinoza, has taught him.
Jesus Espinoza grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved to Southern California at eight years old, where he attended Huntington Beach High School. He participated in athletics there, where his son followed in his footsteps.
As Jesus Espinoza has aged, he has battled adversity, including multiple kidney failures. Recently, he faced a third failure, but like always, he persevered. This time, by receiving a transplant from a family friend.
“It has always just been scary to see the stuff like that happen,” Aidan Espinoza said. “He’s always just had a smile on his face … I’m just proud of him, really cool.”
While frightening, hearing his father’s stories of overcoming adversity has aided Aidan Espinoza in bolstering his confidence.
“[My dad] has always told me to be confident, and having confidence throughout your life will make you a better person and be more successful, and at the end of the day, being successful is what I want to do,” Aidan Espinoza said. “I feel like watching him throughout his life, he’s been pretty successful for where he’s came from, and it’s inspired me to be better in my life.”
For Huntington Beach, Aidan Espinoza bats in the leadoff spot: a role the team calls the test monkey. As the test monkey, he is responsible for gathering information on opposing pitchers.
“I take a lot of pitches and get a lot of information for everyone else,” Aidan Espinoza said. “And I know that it’s always a grind because you don’t know what’s coming, usually, because you’re the very first one to come out”.
The role can be challenging because Aidan Espinoza lacks the assistance of prior data. Still, he embraces the grind and relishes the opportunity to create a spark while helping out his teammates. He attempts to understand the opposing pitchers’ mix and how much run their fastball has to relay for his teammates.
“It’s sort of like a leadership role because you’re the first one out there, and you got to show everyone how to do it,” he said.
His father’s teachings about confidence have assisted him when dealing with the highs and lows of the difficult role.
“[Confidence] makes you happy with yourself, and two, it makes you better at what you do… if you have to lay out for a ball and you have that confidence, then you’ll probably do it,” Aidan Espinoza said. “And even if you miss it, you’re like, I still did it, I tried my best and we’ll just move on.”
With boosted confidence and leadership skills, Aidan Espinoza has become a player who will see the field at the next level. He is committed to playing baseball at UCLA after he graduates high school in 2023.
Aidan Espinoza visited UCLA when he was younger and had the chance to check out the Rose Bowl for a football game with his dad. Ever since, he has been motivated to attend.
“When I was younger, my dad took me to a football game one time, and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Aidan Espinoza said. “When I finally heard about the offer, I was so excited. My family is happy, we’re all having a good time, and then I was like, I don’t know where else I’d want to go except for here.”
By committing to UCLA, Aidan Espinoza is taking a similar path as many former-Huntington Beach outfielders. Many of them headed to the draft before or after playing at UCLA. While Aidan Espinoza has not put much thought into the draft, Perfect Game has an 8.5 grade on him, meaning he could be in the mix at some point in his career. He is open to the idea but first hopes to play out his college dream.
“I really want to go to school, because it just seems like a lot of fun,” Aidan Espinoza said. “I’d like to have an education, which would be really cool, but if something happened that made me want to think otherwise, I’d really be interested in [the draft].”
Regardless of future outcomes, Aidan Espinoza has made memories through baseball, and when he is facing challenges, he can always reflect on his father’s perseverance to lift him up.