Since graduating from Pitman High in 2012, AJ Derr has been thriving in baseball at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.
A private university which offers NCAA Division II athletics, Derr's gradual success has come after hard work on and off the field, starting with his freshman year when he earned Pac-West All-Academic honors.
Derr was offered only one scholarship right before his senior season and did not hesitate to sign.
“I am truly blessed,” said Derr of being able to play collegiate baseball. “The biggest difference was just getting used to the speed of the game. Everything was so much faster and the strategy of the game was very different.”
This ended up being one of the best decisions of his life, especially since he played in 24 games as a freshman, starting in 19 and batting .218.
The Sea Lions of Point Loma would end up with an overall record of 26-24 and 22-14 in the Pac-West for the 2013 season.
“We had some assistant coaching changes from my first year here and I believed that was a huge improvement from then,” said Derr. “We focused on more of the little things to the game and that really helped us out when it came to crunch time.”
After one full year under his belt, the Turlock native went back to practice and would return even better for his second season.
Although his year was cut short as a sophomore, Derr hit .304 in 19 games before his season ended by injury. However, he was still chosen as a Pac-West All-Academic Team selection.
“This year so far has been my best year,” Derr said. “I was hit with injuries my first two years here that cost me a lot of playing time. This year I am playing every day, either left field or catcher and that is keeping me healthy to perform at my very best. I have my teammates to thank. They are performing at their very best and without them, I wouldn’t be this successful.”
As of now, the Sea Lions sit comfortably in second place in the Pac-West at 16-4, three games behind Dixie State.
The Sea Lions also hold a league best 30-7 overall record.
“The attitude of my teammates is so positive that it contributes to our success as a whole,” Derr said. “I did some minor changes to my swing and just trying to do my part to help my team in the best way possible. This team is starting to put everything together at the right time and I am just so glad to be able to contribute.”
Derr is currently having the best year thus far of any Sea Lion, leading the team in many categories such as the highest batting average on the team at .343 and has walked a team high 21 times in 36 games played and started.
“Stats are just numbers. At the end of the day, I only ask myself “Did I give my all?” Numbers are cool and all but it’s not the most important,” Derr said. “I am truly blessed to just be part of a great program and seeing this group succeed is fun to watch.
“I stand by a slogan that says ‘Audience of One’ which means in whatever you do, do your best for the glory of God. I feel like win or lose, my hard work and effort goes out to Him and that is the biggest picture,” Derr said.
As of now Derr has set goals that are obtainable and reachable to strive to become better every single day on and off the field he said, leading the team to a school record, 17-game winning streak.
“As a team, we want to perform what we do best and show everyone that we came to play. We are on a pretty solid streak right now and we hope that it can continue,” Derr added. “But if not, we just got to put that behind us and respond with our best effort. Who knows what life has for me after I graduate, whether its baseball still or starting my career, but it’s in God’s hands.”
The Point Loma Sea Lions next game will be at home with the doubleheader beginning at noon on April 17.