By Matthew Tassopoulos
It’s a hot summer day in the GTA. Baseball season is in full swing, and the playoffs are quickly approaching for minor baseball teams across Canada.
Aaron Preiano and his Aurora Blue Jays teammates are preparing for the biggest tournament of the year.
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Aaron feels a “pop” in his elbow. He’s in immense pain, but what’s worse is the feeling that life as he knows it may have just come to an end.
At the moment, Aaron is just a 12 year-old kid playing the sport that he loves.
He’s known known baseball was a big passion of his for a long time, and an opportunity to potentially chase his dreams were in front of him. “From a young age baseball has been part of my life. My dad has always liked it, and he brought me into it as a kid. Ever since I first played baseball I thought it was really fun,” says Aaron from his home in Aurora just a few months after his 20th birthday.
Many kids have dreams, and many kids say they would do whatever it takes to pursue those dreams.
For Aaron, his dream was to be a Major League Baseball player, and he was determined to not let anything get in his way of getting there.
Until the day it all changed.
“Unfortunately I still remember that feeling. It was during our final tournament of the year, which is always in August, and I was just throwing the ball around in warmups when I felt something in my arm. I never really had a feeling like that before but I could tell right away that it was bad,” says Aaron.
Aaron suffered a significant injury to his throwing arm, which required Tommy John surgery. Tommy John surgery is a procedure that is done to repair a torn UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) inside one’s elbow by using a tendon from another part of the body. It is named after former Major League pitcher Tommy John, who was the first player to successfully undergo the surgery.
The injury meant Aaron was unable to play baseball for over a year, and had to undergo many physiotherapy sessions.
Despite not being able to physically be on the field playing during the recovery process, Aaron’s love for the game was at an all-time high.
Aaron’s father, Stephen Preiano, was Aaron’s baseball coach for five years when he started playing, and he is someone who Aaron credits a lot of passion for the game to.
It was “extremely difficult” for Stephen to see his son in pain and agony on a daily basis, but he also knew that Aaron was not the kind of guy to let a bum in the road stop him from doing something he loved to do.
“Ever since Aaron was a little kid throwing the ball in the backyard, he really loved the game of baseball,” says Stephen. “I think any parent would have a hard time seeing their child go through what Aaron was going through, but Aaron had a great attitude about it and I knew he was going to do whatever he could to get back on the field ASAP.”
After being out of action, Aaron finally returned to the field, but not without some unfortunate consequences.
Arm pain was a recurring issue that Aaron had to continue to deal with.
There would even be times where Aaron had to sit out of games for weeks at a time to go see a doctor and try to fix the issues.
“I didn’t realize how serious my injury was at first, but after that I knew it was something that was going to take a lot of time and energy to get past,” says Aaron, pointing to the spot near his elbow that caused him the most pain.
It eventually got to a point where Aaron needed to make a decision that would be best for himself and his future.
“The moment it became clear to me that it was time to go from my playing career to coaching was when I would get home after a game and I was in so much pain. I’d be icing my arm for hours after games and I realized that it was probably time to move on,” says Aaron, who had to quickly come to terms with the reality of his situation.
Since then, Aaron’s passion and affection for the game have not gone away whatsoever. In fact, if you asked Aaron, he’d tell you that everything he went through only enhanced his love for baseball.
In 2019, Aaron started up a new company by the name of Elevation Baseball, as a way to teach and coach children about not only the game of baseball and how to get better as a player, but also how to take care of your bodies as young athletes.
In a big facility full of open space, turf, and space to swing their bats, kids between the ages of 11 to 14 arrive ready to learn and become baseball players, with Aaron’s loud voice giving tips and pointers to the young ones.
“Elevation Baseball is a way for me to pass down my knowledge to younger generations, and also a way to grow baseball in Canada,” Aaron says.
James Chrono, one of Aaron’s former teammates, and fellow coach at Elevation Baseball, says Aaron is one of the hardest working people he knows.
“I’ve known Aaron for a long time, and he’s always been the type of guy who works really hard to accomplish what he wants,” says Chrono, who played baseball for a number of years himself.
Looking back, Aaron says he doesn’t have any regrets about anything that happened, and as he has gotten older, he has a greater appreciation for what athletes of all levels have to go through to get to the top.
Aaron is currently a student at Brock University in the Sport Management program. Even though his playing career did not go exactly as planned, he is still determined to have a successful, baseball-related career in any way possible.
“Down the line I want my career to be something to do with baseball. Maybe a scout, executive, analytics person, something along those lines,” says Aaron, who seems to be happy with where he is at in life.
“Anything to do with professional baseball works for me.”