09/07/10 6:25 PM ET
Vaughn hopes to homer Brooklyn to title
By Bailey Stephens / MLB.com
The son of former Major Leaguer Greg Vaughn, the 21-year-old was selected by the Mets in the fourth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and assigned to Class A short-season Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League. Vaughn wasted no time getting acclimated in his first professional season, and now his team is headed to the playoffs.
"It's been so great," Vaughn said. "It's just a great bunch of guys. I've had to make my adjustments just like anyone else, but I feel like I made them. It's fun to come to the ballpark every day when you're winning."
Vaughn, who signed quickly after the Draft, has been a big part of the Cyclones' winning ways this season. Though the organization knew of his power potential, via his big league bloodlines, Vaughn's shown himself to be quite the slugger in his first season, setting a Cyclones franchise record with 14 home runs, one ahead of Frank Corr's 2001 total. Vaughn's blasts have led to wins in 11 of the 13 games in which he's gone deep.
Vaughn's early splash into professional baseball has shown power reminiscent of his father, who hit 355 big league bombs. Despite his namesake, Vaughn doesn't feel as if he swings in his father's shadow.
"I really haven't felt like that since high school," Vaughn said. "In high school, I put a lot of pressure on myself to put up numbers. Now, I'm just trying to be the best that I can be."
For the record, that's been plenty good enough. The Carmichael, Calif., native's homer-happy ways have given a powerful identity to a Cyclones offense that hit 64 homers as a team, which is also a club record.
This club hasn't just won because of offense, though. Brooklyn boasts some of the league's top pitchers, including Yohan Almonte, Angel Cuan and A.J. Pinera. As is always the case, good pitching can beget good hitting and vice versa.
"Our pitching has been great the whole year," Vaughn said. "If they can hold the other team for a few runs, it really takes the pressure off. It makes it a lot easier knowing they are going to keep it close."
Of course, Vaughn is plenty familiar with playing behind some stellar pitching. At San Diego State, Vaughn played with Major League phenom Stephen Strasburg, witnessing the right-hander's mound prowess on a regular basis.
"It was really great having Strasburg as a teammate," Vaughn said. "He really worked his butt off. It's unfortunate that he got injured, but I'm sure he'll bounce back as quickly as possible."
On his current team, though, a rare combination of talented pitchers and sluggers like Vaughn is only part of the story. The club's success has been fueled, according to Vaughn, by the approach set out by manager Wally Backman and his staff.
"They always tell us to just play ball and trust our natural instincts," Vaughn said. "We're going out focused, doing our early work and just playing baseball, without thinking too much."
Backman's tutelage has seemingly had a positive impact on Vaughn and his teammates -- a squad which is headed to the playoffs for the seventh time in 10 years. Especially having grown up around the Major Leagues, Vaughn is convinced Backman would fit nicely into a big league managerial job, possibly with the Mets.
"I think he'd be a great Major League manager," Vaughn said. "He's a player's coach. He's really firey and always has the best interest of his players at heart."
Any promotion for Backman, though, will have to wait until this offseason. First, Vaughn and his teammates have playoff business to attend to. The Cyclones will open the first round against the Jamestown Jammers on Tuesday night.
While Vaughn's already had quite the big summer, a New York-Penn League title for Brooklyn would just be the icing on the cake -- or the hand.
"Like I said, when you're winning, it's a lot of fun," Vaughn said. "I'm just trying to help bring a championship to Brooklyn. I'd love to be flying back to California with a ring on my hand."
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.