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AUBURN — Within the first month of his pro career, J.T. Arruda did something most baseball players don't ever accomplish.

He made ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 plays of the day on Tuesday.

The Auburn Doubledays infielder made a diving stab at the ball on his backhand Monday in West Virginia against the Black Bears. The ball went straight up off his glove, he caught it barehanded and fired it to first base ahead of the runner. It was the No. 6 play of the day.

"It's just a hard hit ball," Arruda said. "I tried to catch it with the backhand and it popped up. Luckily it popped straight up — normally that doesn't happen — and my reactions took over at that point. I just did what I could, and it was a heck of a pick by the first baseman (Adalberto) Carrillo by the way."

Arruda, interviewed Wednesday, had no idea he was on ESPN. He was very humble about the accomplishment.

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"It's a lot of repetition and a lot of trust in the coaches to stick me there and be in the situation to make that play," said Arruda, who is listed primarily as a shortstop.

Arruda, the Washington Nationals' 11th round pick in the amateur draft this spring, has a .214 average with a double, two triples, four RBIs and seven runs in 20 games this season. The California native is coming off a redshirt sophomore season with Fresno State, where he had a .338 batting average. In 56 games, he registered 56 runs, 15 doubles, eight homers and 45 RBIs.

"It seemed like the right time to do what I did," Arruda said of leaving college. "We had a ton of success when I was at Fresno State. The coaches over there and the players were awesome. We had a postseason run and made it to the regional, and unfortunately got beat by Stanford. It was one heck of a college career. It was so much fun and I'll cherish those moments for the rest of my life."

Arruda isn't the first in his family to play in the New York-Penn League. His older brother, Aaron, spent the last two seasons with Vermont.

"He told me it's going to be a grind. It's a lot of long bus rides, but it's fun," Arruda said. "Not many people can say their job is being a professional baseball player, so take every day as a blessing. Don't take any day for granted."

Like any player, Arruda is hoping to move up the Nationals' ladder, but he's not rushing anything. One big play — and some airtime on TV — doesn't change his steady approach.

"I think you just have to take it day-by-day," Arruda said. "If you get caught up in trying to move up, it's not going to happen like you want it to happen. I think you just play every day, you get to know the guys and you be a good team guy. Whatever happens, happens and you have to have trust in the organization to do what they do. If the situation is right to move up, it is and if it's not, it's not. You just enjoy your time here."

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Sports writer Jeremy Houghtaling can be reached at 315-282-2256 or at jeremy.houghtaling@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenHough.

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