Florence native Erik Ostberg selected by Tampa Bay in 13th round of MLB draft

  • University of Hartford catcher Erik Ostberg, a Florence native, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays during the 13th round of the MLB draft Wednesday. COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF HARTFORD

  • Valley Blue Sox catcher Erik Ostberg, center, signs a baseball hat for Jack Sherman during a game between Valley Blue Sox and the Winnipesaukee Muskrats July 22, 2016 at Mackenzie Stadium in Holyoke. GAZETTE STAFF/Andrew J. Whitaker

  • Erik Ostberg, right, of Florence, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, talks with his trainer, Peter Fatse, who is the co-owner of Advanced Performance Player Development, during a celebration Wednesday at Longmeadow Country Club. The Rays drafted Ostberg, a catcher who starred at the University of Hartford, in the 13th round with the 379th pick in the Major League Baseball draft. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Eric Ostberg, left, of Florence, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, talks to his trainer, Peter Fatse, center, and his father, Rob Ostberg, during a celebration Wednesday at Longmeadow Country Club. The Tampa Bay Rays drafted Ostberg, a catcher who starred at the University of Hartford, in the 13th round with the 379th pick in the Major League Baseball draft on Wednesday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Eric Ostberg, right, of Florence, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, talks with Caleb Wint, of Longmeadow, from left, Connor Crocker, of Hatfield, and Cary Pazmany, of Amherst, during a celebration Wednesday at Longmeadow Country Club. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 6/14/2017 2:50:13 PM

Erik Ostberg thought he’d get a call first. Instead it was the MLB.com live web broadcast that revealed the news he’d been waiting his whole life for.

The Tampa Bay Rays drafted Ostberg, a catcher from Florence who starred at Hartford, in the 13th round with the 379th pick in the Major League Baseball draft on Wednesday.

“I’m very excited. I wasn’t expecting it. I thought they’d call first. The (Rays) scout called me after it happened,” Ostberg said.

Ostberg, 21, thought he’d be selected Tuesday, day two of the draft (rounds 3-10). Baseball America had him listed as the No. 20 catcher and the No. 205 player overall. Before he injured his knee, Ostberg led all of Division I in hitting at .500 (43-for-86), and had six home runs and 23 RBIs in 24 games. The San Diego Padres contacted him during the eighth round and told him they planned to choose him when their pick came up, but the club went another direction.

“Everyone in the world told me I was going to go yesterday,” Ostberg said. “When I didn’t get taken, I was pretty upset. I thought I was undervalued. Regardless of whatever organization picked me today, I was going to go there and play my butt off and make it the best money they ever spent. I think I’m one of the best catchers in the draft.”

Some of that frustration was alleviated by who selected him. The Rays hadn’t picked any other catchers before him and none of their top 20 prospects in MLB.com’s rankings play his position. Ostberg had worked out for Tampa Bay’s staff shortly before the draft at a minor league facility in New York.

“It’s a great organization to go to. They invest in their players and have a great minor league system with a great development staff,” he said.

Before day three started at noon on Wednesday, five teams, including the Rays, contacted his agent, Amherst-based Jim Masteralexis, to determine what it would take to sign Ostberg, who had a year of college eligibility remaining. Ostberg said he and the Rays agreed to a signing bonus. If he chooses to complete his bachelor’s degree, the Rays will pay for his college costs.

He almost went to the Red Sox, who contacted him early in the 13th round, indicating an intention to take him at pick 401 if he was still available. But the Rays grabbed the Williston Northampton School alumnus first.

Ostberg, his family and some close friends gathered at Longmeadow Country Club Wednesday night, both to celebrate and hang out one more time before he hit the road.

His father Rob Ostberg founded Northampton’s Cal Ripken Baseball league and has watched both of his sons — Erik and Ian — grow up loving the game.

“For a lot of dads and their teenage sons, some find hunting or fishing or cars. For me and my dad it was baseball. For me and my kids it’s been baseball,” Rob Ostberg said. “That’s made this extra special.”

Erik Ostberg will now start the journey attempting to be the first player from Northampton to reach the big leagues since Stu Miller debuted for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1952.

Ostberg planned to meet with Rays scout Tim Alexander Thursday to make his signing official and expected to fly to Florida later in the week. Because he’s coming off a knee injury, Ostberg said the Rays medical staff will evaluate him and determine his remaining rehabilitation before assigning him to a minor league team.

“They’re going to assess where I’m at and work me back into catching gingerly,” Ostberg said. “I’m going to roll with it and enjoy that I get to be in Florida at an unbelievable facility to play baseball.”

He was ready to attack his rehab.

“I’m definitely going to get back to my standard of play,” he said.

Drafted college players usually begin their careers in short-season Single A. The Rays affiliate is the Hudson Valley Renegades in the New York Penn League. The Renegades play in Fishkill, New York, just 134 miles from Ostberg’s Florence roots. Rob Ostrberg was hopeful.

“It would be just great fun to take a ride down Route 84 and see my son play professional baseball,” he said.

While Rob Ostberg had plans to buy himself a Rays hat soon, Erik Ostberg already owned one. He used to collect Major League caps and had a blue one with the TB on it already.

“I used to put on these hats as something to wear,” he said. “Now it’s the team that gave me a chance to play professional baseball.”

He thought about that and paused.

“Wow,” he said. “That’s still surreal to say.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage




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