NISKAYUNA — Aaron Whitley is not the only kid playing a varsity sport this spring who had an older sibling previously come through the Section II scene and set a high standard to match.
But the junior does face a unique set of expectations as a Whitley playing high school baseball at Niskayuna — yet they don’t bother him.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Aaron Whitley said before a recent Suburban Council game.
His delivery of that statement comes so casually it’s hard not to believe him — and that cool and calm demeanor is perhaps what Aaron Whitley shares the most with older brother Garrett Whitley, who spent his senior season at Niskayuna flirting with becoming the overall No. 1 pick in the 2015 MLB amateur draft before ending up going No. 13 to the Tampa Bay Rays.
That unflappable nature has helped Aaron Whitley become a valuable contributor right away for Niskayuna in his first varsity season, too.
“He’s the type of player who is willing to do whatever is asked of him and he just works really hard at it,” said Niskayuna head coach Chris Bianchi, who led the Silver Warriors to a Section II Class AA championship last year in his first season leading the program. “He works so hard and carries a nice, consistent attitude with him in the games, despite all the successes and failures baseball brings you.”
For the most part, though, Aaron Whitley hasn’t faced many of those failures to this point in his first varsity baseball season. Through Niskayuna’s first 10 games, Aaron Whitley has a .470 on-base percentage, hasn’t been caught in six stolen base attempts and has scored 10 runs.
“His first varsity at-bat,” Bianchi said, “he hit a double to right-center.”
That first hit went right between where Aaron Whitley plays and Garrett Whitley played for the Silver Warriors. Big brother played center field for Niskayuna, while little brother serves as the school’s starting right fielder this season after mostly playing catcher as a youth player.
“This is my first year I’ve really played out there in games,” Aaron Whitley said.
“But we always knew he was going to be good out there,” Garrett Whitley said.
The two brothers communicate often, but Garrett Whitley — currently rehabbing in Florida after surgery to repair a torn right labrum — said baseball isn’t the main topic of conversation.
“He loves baseball and he asks me questions if he wants to,” Garrett Whitley said, “but I never really give him pointers or anything like that because he’s got it.”
That’s true on and off the baseball diamond.
“He’s a great kid,” Bianchi said of Aaron Whitley, who has already been named a captain for this fall’s football season for Niskayuna, a sport in which he plays wide receiver and defensive back. “He’s super-athletic, smart. He’s the total package.”
This season, Aaron Whitley has helped Niskayuna to a 5-5 start after the Silver Warriors graduated the bulk of their starting lineup from last year’s run to the state tournament quarterfinals.
“We want to keep building and become a better team,” Aaron Whitley said of this year’s team’s focus. “With that will come the wins and, hopefully, making the playoffs. Then, we can make a run.”
If the Silver Warriors do that, Aaron Whitley will play a key role. Bianchi said the junior has quickly become one of Niskayuna’s leaders this season, and that status has nothing to do with the last name he carries.
“He has his own individuality,” Bianchi said, “and he’s his own player — and he’s a really good player.”