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Deglan blasts his way into ABL history
Canadian slugger has tackled opposing arms, new position
01/12/2015 6:20 PM ET
Deglan (left) greets former record holder Harman after his 16th homer.
Deglan (left) greets former record holder Harman after his 16th homer. (SMP Images/ABL Media)

MELBOURNE, 13 January - When Kellin Deglan was first presented with the idea to travel to Australia for his North American offseason, he briefly filed it away in the back of his mind. Now, Deglan has etched his name in the Australian Baseball League record book, and the experience has left a mark the Canadian won't soon forget.

The Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces' slugger has taken his Down Under opportunity and made the most of it, soaking up the Australian experience, learning a new position at first base and, most notably, blasting a modern ABL single-season-record 16 home runs in 2014/15 - and he still has two rounds to go.

The prodigious blasts of Deglan's inaugural ABL fixture have put the 22-year-old on the radar in terms of the league's greatest individual campaigns. Entering Round 10, the Texas Rangers prospect had blasted 11 home runs through 32 games, the highest mark in the league and just four shy of the circuit's previous best for a single season.

"When I had 11 home runs coming into [Round 10] against Canberra, I was starting to notice I had a pretty good lead in the home run race," Deglan said on a recent day off in Melbourne. "Then I found out that the record was 15, and that's when I really started thinking about it. I really wanted to break that record."

Mission accomplished. In his first three Round 10 games against the Cavalry, Deglan went off, blasting five home runs to capture the record.

"I felt like I've been seeing the ball great out here," he said. "When I got to 14 [home runs on 2 January], that night I was feeling so close, and I wanted it really bad. The next day, I came out, hit a bomb my second at-bat and my last at-bat. I just wanted to get it, break the record so I can relax a little bit."

With his team leading by two runs in the bottom of the seventh, Deglan turned around a 1-2 offering from Canberra reliever Jake Brown and pummeled it over the right-centre field wall for a two-run homer. The shot ended up bringing home the decisive run in an eventual 9-8 Aces win. It also plated one of the league's former record holders. Former Canberra slugger Adam Buschini and Deglan's Melbourne teammate Brad Harman held the ABL's previous mark with 15 home runs in a single season.

"I actually drove [Harman] in," Deglan said of homer No. 16. "He was one of the first guys I saw when I touched home plate which was really cool."

Deglan's strong season has been a function of a multitude of factors. The mix of young and veteran talent on the Aces' roster, as well as some familiar faces, has played a large role. Melbourne manager Tommy Thompson originally approached Deglan about playing in the ABL while the two were on opposing sides in the Carolina League during the 2014 Minor League Baseball season. Deglan's Rangers teammate Cody Buckel has also experienced a solid degree of success in Aces colours this season.

"It's been nice knowing some guys before I came over here," Deglan said. "The Australian guys out here are so nice. Everybody out here is just so friendly. They've made it a really easy transition for all of us imports.

"Having Justin Huber on our team, he was a catcher coming up and got injured and turned into a first baseman, played a few years in the big leagues. He's an all-around great dude, a great baseball player. Having Brad Harman on our team, too, won a World Series with the Phillies. He's an unbelievable player, such a smooth infielder, slows the game down so much. Then we've got a couple of other veteran guys, too. These guys know how to play the game. They've helped me. It's been really beneficial watching them play and how they go about their business. They do the little things right, and it's good for us to be around them."

It isn't just Deglan's continued power development that has been impressive for the Aces. A catcher exclusively throughout his professional career in the Texas system, Deglan has been Melbourne's regular first baseman this season thanks, in part, to the Aces' depth at the catching position that includes Philadelphia prospect Chace Numata.

"I'm here to get better and learn a new position," Deglan said. "I'm taking it seriously. I'm working hard in practice. I'm trying to get as good as I can so I can just go out and relax during the game and just play."

The position shift hasn't affected Deglan's ability to produce at the plate, often a difficult challenge for players making a move in the field.

"I'm trying to separate my offence from my defense, so if I make an error, I'm not trying to take it to an at-bat."

The quality of play in the ABL has impressed Deglan, as has the support from the Aces' faithful, even during a tough season on the ladder.

"I'm facing a lot of guys with at least Double-A time, a bunch of guys with big league time in this league," he said. "It's not like we're facing bad pitching out here. I'm feeling good, seeing the ball well, and I'm just really confident up there right now.
 
"I feel like a lot of people have gotten behind me here in Australia. The fans have been amazing to me. Even though our team hasn't had the strongest season out here, the fans have been really supportive of our team. Coming back to the States, I'm going to have nothing but great memories of Australia, and to get out of here with the home run record, I couldn't have dreamed of a better outcome."

Tyler Maun is the ABL's staff writer and a contributor to MiLB.com, the Official Site of Minor League Baseball. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.