Florence’s Erik Ostberg ‘shredded’ as he reports for Spring Training

  • Florence's Erik Ostberg completely changed his body working out this offseason. He's 10 pounds lighter approaching his fourth Spring Training with the Tampa Bay Rays organization. COURTESY FRANK DINARDI

  • Florence's Erik Ostberg figures he'll start this minor league baseball season in High A or AA. He'dprefer being a High A every day player than not getting at bats at a higher level. COURTESY LUKE APRILE

Staff Writer
Published: 3/30/2021 3:54:47 PM

The white Toyota Rav4 that ferried Florence’s Erik Ostberg to his first three Spring Trainings met its end a few weeks after a collision with a deer in Maine. The Florence native was up there picking up his custom bats from Dove Tail in preparation for his departure.

With the vehicle he’d owned his entire pro career out of commission, Ostberg made the 1,400-mile drive over two days in a Hyudai this week and reported to the Tampa Bay Rays facility for the fourth time Wednesday. The Williston Northampton graduate prefers to drive rather than fly to Port Charlotte, Fla., to retain freedom of movement during camp.

“Not having a car down there is brutal,” he said from the New Jersey Turnpike. “I’m gonna get a pretty cool whip in a couple years, I think.”

That optimism stems from his confidence and outlook for the 2021 minor league season. Ostberg completely changed his body this offseason, dropping 15 pounds and changing his defensive philosophies and positioning. He became more conscious of his diet and the timing of his meals.

“I’ve shredded out,” he said. 

Some of the tweaking began last summer when he played independent baseball while the minor leagues were on hiatus due to COVID-19. Ostberg, 25, was named an all-star in the City of Champions Cup playing for the Chicago Deep Dish. He led the league in batting average (.381) hits (32) and doubles (eight) as a catcher and designated hitter. The Hartford product also was second in slugging (.619) and tied for third with four home runs. He reached base safely in all 23 games.

“I’m confident about where I’m at,” Ostberg said. “I’ve never been more dynamic or quick as I am now. I smashed that league.”

In a deep Tampa Bay farm system, Ostberg said he’ll likely start the season with the High Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods or Double-A Montgomery Biscuits. He prefers returning to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he’s more likely to receive regular at-bats and playing time with a goal of being promoted to a Double-A regular by the end of the season.

“This is a big year for me. 2020 was a big year for me coming off 2019 when I was injured for part of it. I want to let my upside show this year for a full season, a full slate of at-bats,” Ostberg said. “I raked in indy ball, and I think that’ll help me in the long run. I was willing to lose money to go play. I was wiling to sacrifice to get at-bats. That’s a small slice of what I can do – increased power numbers, slugging. I think I can make massive gains this year.”

Plus he’s familiar with the Hot Rods organization after playing there in 2019 when they were the Rays’ Class A affiliate. Major League Baseball contracted the minor league system in December, removing 40 teams from the system.

“I was not a fan of the realignment at all. The MLB manipulates the minor league so much as it is, and there are so many guys that were released for 2020 that would have been playing. I thought it was completely unjust,” Ostberg said. “My heart is broken for a lot of guys I know well who now find themselves on the outside looking in, and they shouldn’t be.”

The minor league season will begin the first week of May.

“I’ve made the changes on my own, and it’s a matter of showing them the value,” Ostberg said. “It’s a matter of getting on the field and letting them see it, too.”

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