Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Interview with pitcher Ross Oltorik
Photo Courtesy Jim Davidson and Dan Harker of the O-Zone.net
Deion Sanders, Michael Jordan, Ross Oltorik? The Buckeye Nine catches up ex-Moeller Crusader and two-sport star Ross Oltorik.
Throughout Ohio kids in every town, city, suburb, and countryside dream of one day playing football inside the Horseshoe, running out of the tunnel in Ohio Stadium, and owning a pair of Gold Pants for beating Michigan. Doing their best Joey Galloway, Eddie George, or Troy Smith impersonation, having the goal of being the second Mr. two-time, and having memories of colored in Scarlet & Gray, to become an Ohio State football is certainly the childhood dream of many.
In other neighborhoods, alleys, barns, and communities, the pastime of America lives on. Kids gathering in a sandlot doing their best Ken Griffey Jr. stance, high schoolers leading off first base with the quiet confidence of Kenny Lofton looking to steal second, and youth being served as kids who couldn't tell the difference of a 4-6-3 and 6-4-3 playing tee-ball with a joy and smile as big as Nick Swisher's custom grin. Hey kids dream of playing baseball too, and the potential chance of dawning the Scarlet & Gray in Bill Davis Stadium is just as big as the like in Ohio Stadium.
Unfortunately in life these dreams are nothing more than dreams. Maybe one kid from a town every three or five years and live the dream of playing a sport for Ohio State. To play both? Unheard of. Sophomore to be Ross Oltorik defines the odds. As a student-athlete at Ohio State, Oltorik can proudly show off the jewlery that comes with being a Big Ten Champion football player and Big Ten Champion baseball player. Now Jordan, and Sanders are world-class athletes in truly a class of their own. But Olrotik as Sanders did can say he played two sports at one of the nations premiere universities and athletic programs.
The Buckeye Nine was able to catch up with Oltorik, he was gracious enough to lend the B9 some time, hopefully providing an insight on being a two-sport athlete, but sense this is a baseball blog, also touching up on the 2009 season of the Buckeyes and what to expect in 2010.
B9: Just briefly the summer so far, how’s it going? Any baseball activity for you?
RO: The summer in terms of baseball activity for me has gone a bit on the slower side. And that is what I wanted. I got hurt towards the end of the year and I do not want to rush anything to set me back even further.
In the past week though I have thrown and I am working with my pitching coach from back home in Cincinnati. I may pitch for the Cincinnati Steam in the Great Lakes League towards the end of July.
Working out on the other hand has gone great. It is really nice to be home and relax. It had been a long year. I am eager to get back on the mound and feel like this coming year should be a great year for Ohio State.
B9: Obviously your summer baseball schedule has to work around or with your summer football schedule, as a two-sport athlete here at OSU, how are you able to handle both sports?
RO: The coaches were great last year with me playing two sports. I thought it may get a little rough with one coach trying to pull you away from the other, but all in all last year I have no complaints with that.
The football team was great with me pursuing what I needed in baseball and the baseball team was great with allowing me to miss the fall. I could not complain with the baseball team’s effort in allowing me to miss the fall other than me coming over a couple times a week to throw. The team when I came to baseball workouts after football was finished was very supportive and held no grudges on me for missing.
B9: Was being able to play both sports a decision that went into your recruitment and choice for school?
RO: Playing two sports here at OSU was huge in my decision to come here. During the recruiting process I was torn whether I should play football at the next level or baseball. I knew that I had to stick with baseball, but also I wanted to play football at the next level if that opportunity arose.
Some other schools were allowing me to play both, but the baseball team here was generous enough to give me what I needed financially as well as give me the opportunity to play football as well. I could not be thankful enough for what Ohio State has done for me thus far.
B9: Coach Tressel is synonymous with Ohio State football, as well as the school. Being able to play under him what is he like that most do not get to see?
RO: Coach Tressel is a class act. If I wanted to I could be here all day discussing how great of not only a coach but how great he is as a person.
Through this process of me maybe one day having to choose one sport he has been completely honest with me and has looked me in the eye and told me what he believes is the correct choice for me. He is a man of his word and that is why I feel he is where he is today.
So far I know if I need to talk to anyone about anything, I know I can always go to him. I know that Ohio State football is where it is today because of him. He is not only a person you can model your program around but you can model your whole university around him.
B9: Moeller has established a nice pipeline with Ohio State; you're a part of a team with 4 ex-Moeller athletes, what does that say about the program and level of baseball in Cincinnati?
RO: I feel that the level of baseball in Cincinnati has helped me become the player I am today. Having 4 kids from the same high school all within a year of each other says a lot. But at the same time I know that for each one of us, just being here at the college level is not enough we want to now make a name for ourselves as players. I feel that the background we have can aid us in doing that, but at the same time it will not just happen we have to put hours and hours in to get what we want.
B9: Does it help when you're on the mound and to already have had years throwing to Burkhart?
RO: Haha Wimmers is going to knock me but I have been throwing to Dan since I was about nine too haha. But the success Alex has had this year was just unbelievable to see and we all have been playing on the same team since we were about 8 or 9.
So, I was not just throwing to Dan in high school. I have been throwing to Dan pretty much my whole baseball career so far. A couple years in there we didn’t play on the same team but I feel like we both know each other pretty well and he makes me feel pretty comfortable out there.
B9: Unfortunately your season came to an end with an injury in early May. Just two weeks prior you had your best outing versus Ball State. Did you start to feel your stuff coming around as the season went on?
RO: Well, yes unfortunately I did end up with some bursitis actually in my shoulder in early May. As any one would be I was pretty devastated about that. I finally felt that I had got my mind right and ready to help the team out as much as I could. But, the injury did not allow that.
B9: Without having the luxury of participating in fall ball, did it take a few appearances for the best to come out?
RO: I felt that missing fall ball may have affected me a bit, but honestly I feel that my first couple outings I just did not have my mind right. I was trying to prove something to the guys and I was not being myself. I finally started settling in. My mechanics were not correct either, making my off-speed pitches not what they should have been. I figured that out against Ball State and started to be myself. As the season went on I felt that I was settling in and started to find my off-speed.
B9: Obviously any and every athlete hates injuries and want to perform at every possibility, though you weren't able to compete, how does the experience of being a part of a Regional and the time spent in Tallahassee play a role in both your personal and the teams progression?
RO: I am going to be honest with you here, not being able to play and compete the last month of the season completely sucked. But I can learn from what it’s like not getting the chance to play and know what it feels like.
Also, I was pretty disappointed but I did not attend Tallahassee. I feel like the coaching staff did not believe I was injured. I don’t know the reasoning on that but it was a choice they made and both parties need to go from here. I just started throwing the baseball off flat ground this past week and if I was not hurt I would have been playing for my summer team already this summer.
B9: Coming off of a Big Ten championship, Ohio State is only losing 3 seniors to graduation, and returning starters in nearly every position, I'm sure the goal is there to repeat, but are you and your teammates expecting a repeat? Is it a "hey the championship comes through Columbus" mindset?
RO: I feel that our team’s expectations are not only a repeat but we expect to get out of the Regionals this year. We know we can do it; it’s just if we are going to stay focused. As a pitcher I know I need to try not to overuse my arm throughout the season as well as everyone else, so at the end of the season we are at our best. We have a humble team but I know in the back of their minds they are thinking the championship comes through Columbus.
B9: Without giving too much away, what are the keys to your success as a pitcher? What types of pitches do you throw and as a result what tells you when you're on your A game?
RO: For me when I am on my game I feel that it’s when I am able to establish my off speed. I throw a 2 and 4 seem fastball, a curveball, and a circle-change. I have been working on slider. But I feel that if I can establish my off speed and make every pitch look the same then I know for me that I am feeling my best on the mound. That goes for any pitcher, but if I can do that every time out no matter the result of what the hitter does I will be happy.
B9: Any personal goals you have for 2010 and thoughts on what the Buckeye faithful should see from Ross Oltorik?
RO: I have some personal goals that I tend to keep in my heart. But I know if I continue over the summer getting better and just being myself then I will help this team out tremendously.
I hope to put my team in position to win each and every time I go out there. And I will do whatever it takes to help the Buckeyes win a 2010 Big Ten championship.
The Buckeye Nine wants to thank Oltorik for taking the time to be able to answer the questions and provide some insight into not only being a two-sport athlete, but being a Buckeye pitcher as the Bucks in 2010 are on the title defense. Oltorik was a highly sought after recruit coming out of Moeller in 2008. The Buckeye Scout had Oltorik the 3rd best player in the state and the top right-handed pitcher in the 2008 class. With a healthy Oltorik the Buckeyes present a danger to many teams across America as they look to build upon their Regional berth, and pitching will be the key to a successful season. Good luck to Oltorik on the gridiron.