New York Times: A King to be Knighted

Joe Durso

Long Beach, NY

It was July 4th, 1987, a stout unshaven 22 year old was sitting alone, drink in hand, early in the afternoon within the East Shore Waters Casino in the heart of Atlantic City, NJ. The young man, seemingly down on his luck had just lost his last quarter on the last spin of the slot machine before him; two bars and a cherry. It wasn’t just the last quarter to his name, it was the last of his earnings from a 4 year minor league career, cut short before opening day of the Atlantic City Monarchs 1987 campaign. When people see the name Presley, they aren’t thinking about Atlantic City, most are reminded of the other home of luck and loss, Las Vegas, Nevada, and its former heir Elvis Presley. This young 22 year old has never seen the success of the King he was named after. Aaron Presley was out of a job, out of a dime and had nowhere to go.

Aaron could have went home, re-settled in his hometown outside the city of Rochester, New York, but he was never more than an independent soul, weary to drive his own path in his own direction. The humble yankee set for the south. He spent the rest of the summer of 1987 slowly making his way down the cities along I-95, taking odd jobs to pay for his extended stay motel bills. Walgreens stock boy in Wilmington, Delaware. Nighttime security at East Potomac Park in south DC. Library clerk at the Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. Finally, he settled in Savannah, Georgia, getting a more long term post unloading ships. This could have been better, but it could have been worse. Presley found himself up at night many times reminiscing about his pitching days. He missed it only on occasion, in between the periods his arm wasn’t hurt from the wear and tear the shipping crates would remind him of. He kept in touch with a former teammate, Larry Stoltman, who had moved onto New Orleans and made his debut during the 1987 season that had passed. They exchanged calls more frequently when the winter arrived and the work at the piers had slowed. Stoltman offered a meetup on his trip to Memphis, offering to pay for his bus ticket from Savannah. Presley had grown tired from the work and the days seemed longer with less to do. He agreed to the offer, and told Larry he’d like to see the Elvis’ museums his mother had spoken off as a child.

The two hurlers of another time met on the second day of the young 1988 year, on two opposite paths that had formed. Larry was glowing from the stories he had of his short time with the Pelicans, driven to make a name for himself. Larry noticed the mood was downward for Aaron, who seemed drifting through the day. He asked if he was looking to get back into pitching. The namesake of a king showed angst, shifting through the stories of days where the phone never rang, not even from the heads of the Keystone teams of Pennsylvania. Nobody remembered the name Aaron Presley, a memory, a forgotten entry to the team databases across the nation. Larry couldn’t stand for this, he wanted to help. The two shared their weekend throughout Memphis and Aaron pondered the greatness and path of his namesake. Finally, before their trip reach its end, Stoltman made his pitch: Get in shape, train that arm to get pack to the power it once was, and I’ll see if my contact with the former Outlaws front office can help you get an audition, the old GM just took over with the relocated Boston franchise, they’re moving to Brooklyn.

Aaron left Memphis with the idea to ponder: Is it really worth it? Can I really get back in. By the time he was passing through Atlanta on his way home, he was set on the course, “I’m coming back.” He told Larry in their next call he’d be ready, whenever the chance came. It didn’t come quick, but the time was more than he needed. Presley returned to Savannah with life in his heart. He went back to his dock job to save money for the trip costs for the potential tryout, sneaking away when he could to train like he was back in Brockport, New York as a high school hurler. The time finally came, well after the summer had passed, and Aaron got his chance before Thanksgiving. He showed up and blew the spectators away. Clocking in near 100, well above anything on record in his earlier days, showing off an extensive repertoire he never lost. The offer came shortly after, an $18,000 guarantee, with auto-renewal options. It was an easy choice, Aaron Presley was gonna be a Knight, only a far cry from the club that had cut him almost two years before.

The Knights marketing team made Aaron available to the media after his signing on Monday. The humble kid remained similar of his previous self for those that could remember, but his experience displayed the wear and wisdom earned. He had one thing to say to the media that day, to the people that sent him down this adventure since the Independence Day the year before, “Everyone can start calling me the King, cause just like my name that bridges this connection, I’m here to make sure I’m just as successful as he was, believe that.”

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