RedHawks center fielder Ahart 'can change a game' at the plate and in the field
FARGO—Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Michael Schlact has a sense of calm when he pencils Devan Ahart into the team's starting lineup.
The center fielder doesn't have a hole in his overall game. Ahart has a strong arm, good speed, can cover a lot of ground in the outfield and has the ability to hit for average and power.
"He can change a game on both sides of the ball," said Schlact, who is entering his first full season as manager for the RedHawks. "He's a guy that brings a lot to the table."
The RedHawks start the American Association baseball regular season at 7:05 p.m. Friday, May 18, against the Texas AirHogs in Grand Prairie. Schlact is expected to pencil Ahart into the third spot in the team's batting order for the opener.
The 25-year-old Ahart played in 78 games for the RedHawks last season, batting .292 with 17 doubles, eight home runs and five triples. He scored 60 runs and stole 11 bases, primarily batting leadoff for F-M last summer.
"He's like a firecracker almost," Schlact added. "He's a guy that wears his emotions on his sleeve. He's competitive and fiery, but also a genuine leader."
Growing up in the Detroit area, baseball was Ahart's first love. When he was 6 years old, Ahart said he told his mom he wanted to be a pro baseball player. But like his versatility on the baseball diamond, Ahart was well-rounded when it came to athletics. Basketball, football and hockey were among the other sports he played during his youth.
Ahart is also an accomplished bowler.
"I've been bowling pretty much since I was born," said Ahart, who played college baseball at the University of Akron. "Everyone in my family bowls, it's just a family function. ... It's just a lifestyle and something to do in the winter up north."
Ahart was 14 years old when he bowled his lone 300 game. While baseball is his passion, Ahart remembers two other sports taking center stage on the television on Sunday afternoons as he was growing up.
"It was bowling and then we were watching golf. We were watching Tiger," Ahart said in reference to golf legend Tiger Woods.
Ahart said his favorite pro bowler is the 5-foot-6 Norm Duke, who has been inducted into the USBC and PBA hall of fames.
"He was beloved by everybody, even his opponents," Ahart said.
The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Ahart in the 16th round of the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft. He advanced as high as Class Double-A in the Dodgers organization.
"I always dreamed of playing pro ball," said Ahart, who was a Detroit Tigers and Ken Griffey Jr. fan growing up. "That was my biggest dream."
The RedHawks posted a 57-43 record last season, but didn't qualify for the American Association postseason. The team hasn't made the playoffs since 2013 and last won a league championship in 2010.
Ahart likes the makeup of this team heading into the regular season.
"We've got a lot of calm, cool, collected guys," Ahart said. "We've got a level of trust there already. ... The chemistry is already there."
Projected starting lineup for opening day
1, Brennan Metzger, lf
2, Maikol Gonzalez, 2b
3, Devan Ahart, cf
4, Randolph Oduber, dh/of
5, Tommy Mendonca, 3b
6, Keury De La Cruz dh/oh
7, Charlie Valerio, c/1b
8, Joe DeLuca c/1b
9, Leobaldo Pina, ss
Starting pitcher: Jose Almarante, RHP