A.J. Simcox has shared his Minor League Baseball experience with the second overall choice in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft, Nick Senzel, and with an All-state high school shortstop, Duncan Pence, preparing for the grind of major college baseball.
Simcox’s ties to Farragut High School baseball, where he was an All-state shortstop (Class of 2012) while helping lead the Admirals to a pair of state championships, remain close.
Close friends with Senzel as former FHS and Tennessee Volunteers teammates, “I told Nick and all my Tennessee teammates that got drafted and picked up to just go out and enjoy it,” Simcox said about reflecting on his life as a Class A shortstop in the Detroit Tigers organization.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Simcox is starting shortstop for the Lakeland (Fla.) Flying Tigers, a Class A Advanced level team in the Florida State League (.251 average with 0 home runs, three triples and 17 RBI through 71 games). “… Just take it day-by-day. It’s a big adjustment. It’s a grind. … you play every day.
“Don’t let the game beat you up because baseball is a game of failure,” Simcox, a 14th-round Tigers choice in 2015, said.
“In the off-season, in early February before I came down for Spring Training, I went to a couple of practices at Farragut and took [batting practice] with some of those guys,” Simcox, 22, said. “Coach [Matt] Buckner introduced me and Duncan. We talked a little bit. I try to be there for guys like that. … I’ve gotten to know him a little bit over the past year or two.”
In reference to Buckner, Admirals skipper since 2010, Simcox said, “We talk regularly, probably once a week and once every two weeks. … Coach Buckner’s helped me out a tremendous amount. He’s a great guy, great coach.
“Coach [Tommy] Pharr did a lot for me as well. … The way he ran the program when I was coming in as a freshman,” Simcox added about the Admirals head coach from 1998 through 2009 while winning five state titles. “Coach Pharr ran a tight ship, taught us what work ethic was.”
The late Scott Dean was a former Admirals star catcher who came back to the school as an assistant coach. “He was a younger guy, so he was almost like a brother to a lot of the guys on the team. He’s a guy you could go and talk to regardless of whether or not it was baseball,” Simcox said. “Scott Dean helped me out as well. He was a great person, great coach.”
Pointing to former Farragut star infielders Kurt Powell (Class of 2009) and Nicky Delmonico (Class of 2011) as having a positive influence on his game while at FHS, Simcox said, “I still talk to all of my Farragut teammates.”
Powell, a former University of Georgia third baseman, “Was with the Tigers organization and I got to play with him a little bit,” Simcox said.