By Brian Bennett
The Courier-Journal

For much of his young life, Aaron Herr didn't see anything extraordinary about being a major league baseball player.

Now that he's close to becoming one, he understands how unusual the opportunity is. That's a big reason why he stepped out of his father's footsteps and into the Cincinnati Reds' organization.

Herr, 25, is the son of former St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Tommy Herr. He grew up around big-league stadiums and clubhouses, serving as a batboy and attending two World Series.

"It was like an everyday thing to me," he said. "I didn't think it was anything special. I just knew my dad was a baseball player, and I thought that was normal."

Herr turned into a good ballplayer himself, getting drafted in the first round by Atlanta in 2000. After five years as a Braves farmhand, he moved over to the St. Louis system and had his best year as a pro. Herr hit .298 with 21 home runs and 81 RBIs in 112 games last season at Double-A Springfield.

It seemed as if a great story was developing, as the Cardinals had a hole at second base and a recognizable name on the rise. But Herr turned down an offer to re-sign with St. Louis this winter in favor of the Reds.

"I think St. Louis thought I'd be so happy to be in the same organization as my dad that it would be easy to sign me," he said. "But I'm still looking to get to the big leagues as quickly as I can, and the Reds seemed like that opportunity. They came pretty strong after me and invited me to big-league spring training. The Cardinals weren't willing to do that."

The Reds also asked Herr to play a new position: third base. He learned that at Double-A Chattanooga while hitting .311 with 11 HRs and 50 RBIs in 70 games. He was named a Southern League All-Star.

Herr is most proud of the 22 walks he drew in Chattanooga, which are seven more than he had all of 2005.

"I'm a pretty aggressive hitter, sometimes overaggressive," he said. "I tried to work on identifying good pitches I could drive, and if they're not there then take a walk. I never really did that in the past. I always tried to swing."

Herr, whose father is a manager in the independent Atlantic League, made his Triple-A debut with the Louisville Bats on July 7. He's hoping his steady progress will get him back to the life of big-league stadiums and clubhouses.

"I've been around it my whole life," he said. "But to be a part of that as a player is really different."