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'I just want to show I can do it, too'

Right fielder Lenny Ashby, who came to KU for the big stage, already is earning recognition for his play

4 min read
KU senior Lenny Ashby, the Big 12 Conference's Co-Newcomer of the Week last week, waits for a pitch at the plate in a game against Texas Southern at Hoglund Ballpark. [Chance Parker photos]

Kansas outfielder Lenny Ashby came to Lawrence for a chance to play on the big stage and prove himself against the best of the best.

A few weeks into the 2024 season, the New Mexico transfer who originally hails from Aruba is already doing that.

Earlier this week, Ashby was named the Co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Week following a four-game stretch in which he absolutely tore the cover off of the ball.

In the Jayhawks’ sweep of Texas Southern, Ashby hit .800 with 2 doubles, 1 home run, 6 RBIs, 5 runs scored and 6 walks. He recorded multi-hit games in three of the four wins and reached base in his final 10 plate appearances of the weekend.

For Ashby, his success typically starts during batting practice. The 5-foot-7 Aruba native told R1S1 Sports this week that he tries to focus on hitting everything in BP on a line at his eyes, knowing that if he’s able to do that, he’ll drive balls into the gaps and over the fence if he gets ahold of them.

So far so good for the lone Aruba native playing any college sport at the Power 5 level today.

Spend 10 minutes with Ashby and you’ll quickly learn that he’s proud of where he comes from. Sure, he misses the weather — “You wake up every day and you don’t have to check if it’s gonna be cold or warm because it’s gonna stay mid-80s” — and the beaches and his friends and family, but, in a way, him getting this type of recognition is as much because of all of that and for his homeland, as well.

“When I got this recognition, I just thought about the people back home,” the KU right fielder said. “I’m just happy that people are seeing us, not just me. It basically sends a message to all the people in the States that we have talent in Aruba.

That’s not entirely a mystery. 31-year-old San Diego shortstop Xander Bogaerts hails from the same city that Ashby does. In fact, Ashby grew up going to Bogaerts’ baseball academy back home.

It might be a tall task for Ashby and other Aruban-born players to one day fill the shoes of the two-time World Series champion and four-time MLB All-Star, but Ashby believes it’s possible for him and others.

That’s why he prepares so hard and plays even harder.

“I just want to show that I can do it, too,” he said. “Every time I walk up to the plate, I don’t know how to say it, but I think that I’m the best hitter. If I get out, I think I got myself out.”

As for why he chose Kansas after entering the transfer portal after his two seasons at New Mexico following a two-year stint at Odessa College in Texas, the fifth-year KU senior credited second-year Kansas coach Dan Fitzgerald for making him feel wanted.

Current KU recruiting coordinator Jon Coyne had the initial connection after recruiting Ashby to New Mexico before joining Fitzgerald’s staff at Kansas. But it was Fitzgerald who pushed Ashby across the finish line.

“Other schools were texting me, emailing me, but it meant a lot that Fitz came all the way to see me,” he said. “I wanted to come here already, but for the coach to show me effort on his side, too, I mean, it was a no-brainer from there.”

As luck would have it, Ashby’s dad, Lenny Sr., was in town last weekend to watch his son tear up Texas Southern. Ashby says his pops is his “best friend” and he added that he appreciates the efforts his dad, a former baseball player himself from the Dominican Republic, has made to come see him play every year he has been in the U.S.

With the good Dominican food cooking on the stove and Ashby’s bats cooking at the diamond, the past week has been an absolute blast in every way for Ashby.

He hopes it continues this weekend, when the Jayhawks open Big 12 play against top-5 foe TCU at Hoglund Ballpark. Lenny Sr. will be there for that, too, and he’ll be keeping a close eye out for his son’s signature celebration move after an extra base hit.

After a double, he’ll stand at second base and orchestrate a series of hand gestures connecting himself to the dugout.

“It’s like a wave and I want the dugout to wave with me and then I just chop it and that’s pretty much it,” Ashby explained while laughing. “It’s just that interaction with the dugout. We’re one in that moment.”

And even though they’re all still so new to Kansas and to each other, Ashby said they all have bonded over their shared desire to be great.

“Everybody’s hungry and I love it,” he said.

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