Andrew Aizenstadt remembers the first time he stepped foot on the Virginia Tech campus.
His first reaction: “Wow.”
Aizenstadt, a 6-foot-5 redshirt-senior pitcher, transferred from Division III Babson College for the 2012 season, undergoing a bit of a culture shock on his arrival. To say things are a little bit different in Blacksburg from what he’s used to would be an understatement.
Babson College is a private business school located outside Boston and is home to just under 4,000 students. When Aizenstadt came to Tech in October 2010 for his recruiting visit, one thing really stood out.
“Everything was just so big,” Aizenstadt said. “I’d compare it to being from a small town, then going to somewhere like New York City with all the huge buildings.”
His visit, which fell on the weekend of a home football game, opened his eyes to what big time college athletics is all about.
“I remember seeing the parade and all the people around, and I had never seen anything like that,” Aizenstadt said. “It was unbelievable, and when I saw that, I knew this place was crazy about sports and this college.”
Baseball head coach Pete Hughes, a native of Massachusetts himself, is no stranger to players from the northeast part of the country. Hughes’ 2012 roster consists of 13 players from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut — states where the Hokies have a lot of connections.
Hughes was the head coach at Boston College from 1999 to 2006, where he coached one of Aizenstadt’s mentors Ryan Morgan. That relationship, along with knowing Babson head coach Matt Noone, gave the Hokies a leg up in bringing Aizenstadt to Blacksburg.
“There’s a bunch of connections there from our Massachusetts days and when I was at Boston College,” Hughes said. “We knew Andrew, we knew the family, we had the background, and he felt as if we were the best fit for him to extend his college career.”
Early in his career at Babson, Aizenstadt posted some of the most impressive statistics in school history. Over the course of his freshman and sophomore seasons, Aizenstadt went 13-2 with a 2.70 ERA while capturing the school record for wins in a season in 2009 with eight.
Less than a week before the start of his junior season, Aizenstadt suffered a partial tear to his ulnar collateral ligament, making Tommy John surgery a real option.
Aizenstadt chose to rehab his arm initially, but re-injured it a second time during his rehabilitation. Surgery was on the table again.
“I was going to get the surgery, but the doctor said to just rehab for six weeks, that it’s partially torn so it might heal on its own,” Aizenstadt said. “Then I went back in six weeks to fill out the papers the day before I was supposed to get the surgery, and he said I didn’t need it anymore and that I could go ahead with the throwing program and try it out.”
He hasn’t looked back since.
After redshirting his junior season, Aizenstadt had a stellar senior campaign at Babson in which he posted a 4-2 record, with a 2.56 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 56.1 innings.
With his time at Babson finished, Aizenstadt headed to the Cape Cod summer league, where he finished with a respectable 2-1 record in 37 innings pitched.
“It was the time of my life,” Aizenstadt said. “Knowing I was down there for the summer, it was easier to just fit right in and just make friends, not wondering if I’m going home one day.”
Although he’s turned his attention to Tech and the ACC schedule ahead, Aizenstadt has fond memories of his time spent at Babson.
“I had the time of my life at Babson,” Aizenstadt said. “It was the best school I could’ve gone to, and it was great for baseball.”
Outside of a select few scouts, opposing players and coaches, Aizenstadt will be a completely new face to the ACC. With his repertoire and composure, Hughes doesn’t think there will be any problems making the transition from Division III to the ACC.