East Troy High School’s A.J. Vukovich, of Mukwonago, takes a moment to reflect during the recent High School All Star Home Run Derby. Vukovich has set a goal of playing for Major League Baseball.

Local athlete is living the dream

By Lisa Smith

Correspondent

“It felt incredible! It was something I truly cannot explain but I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid,” A.J. Vukovich said with a smile as he remembered his part in the 2019 High School All Star Home Run Derby

Many residents of Mukwonago and East Troy tuned into the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby July 8. Friends and family of Vukovich tuned in to keep cheering on their hometown hero. The local high school baseball star has made a big hit, amongst many, in major-league baseball.

Vukovich earned his chance to shine on baseball’s big stage, under the lights, in front of thousands of cheering fans.

“To be able to hit in front of 40,000 fans was unreal and it felt like a dream!” he said.

Vukovich has been playing baseball since he was 5 years old. His home is in Mukwonago and he attends East Troy High School, starting his senior year next month.

Vukovich plays for Hitters Baseball Academy out of Caledonia. He was selected by USA Baseball (to compete in the High School All Star Home Run Derby during the 2019 Major League Baseball All Star Weekend.

Vukovich and 16-year-old Blaze Jordan, from Mississippi, qualified for the finals by hitting the most home runs out of eight semi finalist at Progressive Field on Sunday. Vukovich hit 18 over two rounds to qualify for Monday’s finals.

When asked what his most memorable moment of this major league weekend was, it wasn’t just being surrounded by the games greatest but sharing it with his dad.

“Having my dad on the field with me during the home run derby was the best part of it all,” Vukovich said “He and I work so hard at the game of baseball and to have him there with me on the field surrounded by all of the All Stars was awesome!”

The finals came down to a nail biting finish before a sold out crowd. Down to the final round, where Vukovich proudly took second place. He fell just short of Jordan, 7-6, an impressive showing by both young men.

“What really surprised me was how nice all the MLB players were,” Vukovich said. “Players like Mike Trout took the time to have his picture taken with me. My favorite player, Christian Yelich, took the time to shake my hand and have a brief conversation with me.”

Vukovich said he was inspired being shoulder to shoulder with the game’s best, but a moment with his favorite will stay fresh in his mind.

“Christian Yelich told me ‘maybe this will be you in a few years and I’ll be able to play with you’ that was really cool coming from a guy like him. Hearing that just makes me want to work harder to have the opportunity to play with some of the games best,” he said.

The East Troy rising senior isn’t just a threat at the plate. He can cover both the infield and the outfield positions. Many years of training and camps have molded this player into the superstar he has become today. He praises RJ Fergus of Hitters Baseball.

“He has been extremely supportive since the day I walked into Hitters,” Vukovich said. “He always demands the best from me. He has opened the door to so many opportunities and I definitely would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for his support and guidance.”

Vukovich’s future in baseball is bright, especially because of his dedication to improving and his family support.

“Both of my parents have been amazing,” he said. “They have always guided me through the ups and downs of baseball and in life. Without their support I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Vukovich has committed to Louisville and will now be in the running for a starting spot. Hard work is nothing new to this player; he focuses almost exclusively on baseball for seven to eight months of the year, but is equally impressive on the basketball court. He averaged 26.5 points per game last winter as a junior. He is on pace to score 2,000 career high points.

In addition to the home run derby last month, Vukovich was selected to play in the Perfect Game All American Classic in San Diego. He is the top ranked player in the state of Wisconsin and ranked number 28 in the nation by Perfect Game. In the next five to 10 years, Vukovich said he sees himself playing Major League Baseball.

“It would be an honor and a blessing. I’m working really hard everyday to reach this goal,” he said.

When asked what he would tell a young player wanting to make it in the big leagues, he firmly stated that it takes everyday commitment.

“If you want to reach the highest level you have to work at the game everyday, whether it be on the field, or in the cage, or doing strength and conditioning work,” he said. “You also have to remember to have fun. There can be a lot of outside noise and you are always going to be competing against really talented players – always just remember why you play the game and keep reminding yourself of that.”

 
 

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