Tampa Bay minor leaguer Erik Ostberg excited for first pro all-star game

  • Florence native Erik Ostberg, left, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays, looks out to a crowd of Northampton Cal Ripken Baseball players June 16, 2017, while Cal Ripken coach Brad McGrath speaks at the Maines Field pavilion in Florence. Ostberg was named a New York-Penn League all-star on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

Staff Writer
Published: 8/8/2018 6:56:30 PM

Erik Ostberg’s first professional all-star selection didn’t surprise the Florence native.

Hudson Valley Renegades manager Blake Bultera called the team’s five New York-Penn League All-Star selections into his office Tuesday and called it a great honor.

“It was my goal to try and do that because I felt like it was well within my ability,” said Ostberg, who was drafted out of the University of Hartford in 2017. “To come back and make a splash and get on the map in pro baseball and help my standing in the organization was awesome.”

Ostberg, a Williston Northampton School product, is in his first full professional baseball season after missing time last year with a knee injury after being drafted. The Renegades are the Class A short season affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

He made the NYPL North All-Star team as a designated hitter. Ostberg primarily played catcher in both high school and college, and has caught some for Hudson Valley, but he’s seen the field more as a DH.

“Which I’m thankful for because you’ve gotta get in the lineup somehow,” Ostberg said.

Hudson Valley catcher Chris Betts also made the North All-Star team.

Ostberg is hitting .311 this season, which would be good for sixth in the league if he had enough at-bats to qualify. He’s drove in 19 runs with one homer and nine doubles.

“The pace of the game between college and here is not a huge difference. Pro ball is every day all day long,” he said. “You’re taking bus rides every week through the night, inconsistent sleep schedules, dealing with fatigue and trying to be prepared every single day is a lot different from college.”

That challenge and repetition has motivated Ostberg. He relishes the daily training and incremental improvement baseball necessitates.

“I love training,” Ostberg said. “I love trying to put myself in the best position to succeed and being able to have success and looking at the preparation I’m doing and seeing that it’s working.”

The fact that he is a professional baseball player hasn’t fully set in for Ostberg. Though he’s been in the organization for more than a calendar year, Ostberg still feels like the new guy sometimes.

“At the same time, I’ve met everybody in the organization, and I’m comfortable with the Rays,” he said. “I’ve met all the big league guys and other big league guys of other teams as well. They’re just guys to me.”

What separates players is the ability to produce consistently on a daily basis, and Ostberg’s working on that.

“Trying to buy into a process and a routine that allows you to be successful on a daily basis is not easy, especially in the dog days of August facing arms out of the pen that are 94-96 with a good slider, good changeup,” Ostberg said. “It’s tough to be ready to go every day.”

Ostberg hopes this is the first of many all-star teams in his professional career. He skipped both rookie stops (Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League) in the minor league ladder to get to Hudson Valley, but knows he’s going to have to put his time in at every rung moving toward Tampa Bay and the majors.

“The Rays are famous for their player development. We have one of the best if not the best minor league systems in baseball as far as talent goes, as far as money invested,” Ostberg said. “All those big league trades you see in the news result in loading up our minor league system with quality guys. The guys I compete with on a daily basis, I believe, are some of the best in professional baseball.”

Next year Ostberg hopes to play with the Class A Advanced Bowling Green Hot Rods and potentially High A Charlotte Stone Crabs with an eye upward. For now, he’s focused on his process and the All-Star game Tuesday in State College, Pennsylvania.

“I think when I show up at this all-star game I’ll reflect and be like it’s been kind of a full circle for me as far as from where I’ve come from in Massachusetts,” Ostberg said. “There’s not a lot of guys (playing pro baseball) from our area. It’s rare, so I take a lot of pride in coming from Northampton. I love it.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbsk.

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