Aviles makes most of chance

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --- Is anyone having a greater summer than Mike Aviles?

All that's happened to Kansas City's new shortstop since the weather turned warm is the realization of a lifelong dream, sudden celebrity and the promise of wealth.

"I'm having fun," said the New York native, flashing a smile. "That's the best way to explain it, having fun. All this makes everything that I did to get here worthwhile."

No one can say the 27-year-old rookie didn't work hard to get here. An unheralded seventh-round pick in the 2003 draft, he slowly worked his way through the minor league ranks, from Wilmington in 2004 to Wichita in 2005 to Triple-A Omaha in '06.

He was still in Omaha early this year, too. But when former Brave Tony Pena's average plunged to about .150, Aviles was brought up.

Since then, Aviles has locked up the starting job and brought a renewed enthusiasm to the team.

"I never really thought I wouldn't get here," Aviles said. "I just thought if I kept working hard, everything would finally fall into place."

All his numbers, so far, are upbeat. He was batting .330 with seven homers and 31 RBI going into this weekend's series against Minnesota.

Nobody is predicting Aviles will hit .330 forever. And there are things to work on defensively. But maintaining anything close to the level he's shown his first two months in the majors will lead to a megabuck contract that would widen his circle of admirers.

"The money would be nice, sure," he said. "It would be a way to do things for my family.

"... But I really don't play this game for money. I go out there and play for the love of baseball."


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