Florence’s Erik Ostberg Wins Minor League Season Title With Bowling Green Hot Rods
Erik Ostberg knows what it’s like to be short. He had lost in a series of varsity conference championships in Hartford, an NECBL championship with the Valley Blue Sox and a Class A short season final in Hudson Valley.
Now the Florence native knows what it’s like to finish the job after he and the Bowling Green Hot Rods (the Tampa Bay Rays High A affiliate) beat the Greensboro Grasshoppers 6-3 on Tuesday in the deciding Game 5. from the High A East Championship Series. Ostberg had a brace produced late in the fourth inning with two catches that helped trigger a five-run inning.
He knew the Pirates organization was famous for throwing fastballs high into the area, so he kept his eyes peeled for smashing bullets he could send down the line.
âI got two strikes and reacted to a ball that I knew could hit the bat and threw it,â said Ostberg. “It’s not the most glamorous double I’ve had, but it’s a great two-stroke swing.”
Ostberg, who plays receiver and designated hitter, had two hits in the tie-breaker, both on broken balls.
The Hot Rods have won the last two home games after facing an elimination game on Monday with a depleted reliever box. After celebrating on the pitch, the players retreated to a local bar and restaurant to reunite one last time and say goodbye. With the end of the season, they left Bowling Green for their offseason homes on Wednesday.
This is a group that Ostberg has grown closer with between his last two seasons at Bowling Green and playing with some in the Hudson Valley in 2018. Due to the strength of the Rays’ minor league system, many ‘between them felt that they should play at higher levels. Rather than getting bitter, the Hot Rods came together and chased the championship.
âIn the pro ball (minor league), winning is not the main objective. Usually it’s about the development of each player, âsaid Ostberg. âAs the year went on and some guys moved on and some didn’t, we regrouped in the trenches. We thought, âWe’re talented AA, AAA players, just run this league and put on a show. I’m glad we did this.
The depth of the Rays farm system has shown across the board. The organization has won championships in the AAA, high A, low A and complex leagues. Their AA team reached the championship series and lost a point in Game 5. To boot, the Big League club has the best record in the American League.
âIt’s hard to go through a system when you have such a deep system, but being part of it and watching it is crazy,â Ostberg said.
Ostberg, a Williston Northampton product, has spent most of the year at Bowling Green, playing 59 games with 192 at bat. He received a call to AA in May following an injury, but only stayed with the Montgomerys for six games after one of High A’s other receivers was injured and had to come down.
âI was a little frustrated because if this kid doesn’t hurt himself, I’m still in AA,â Ostberg said.
He’s proven he can hit the next level. Ostberg led all of the Rays’ minor league receivers in OPS (base percentage plus stroke percentage, a measure of punching power) to 0.799 and had 22 home runs, good for the organization’s second place among the receivers. The Hartford product reached 0.266 and achieved 33 points despite rarely playing in consecutive games.
âIt depended on my preparation,â Ostberg said.
Hot Rods hitting coach Brady North has become in tune with the process Ostberg developed with Red Sox hitting coach Pete Fatse during the offseason.
âHe was one of the first coaches to connect the two teams offseason and off-season,â said Ostberg.
Ostberg hopes to start next season at AA and keep climbing. He will return to Western Mass for the winter, train and organize camps in preparation for next season. Ostberg wants to develop more personal flexibility and will train with his varsity team in Hartford, learning the intricacies of the game in the outfield or at first base.
âI will continue to build on this,â Ostberg said. âI think I can really rely on the power tools I have. I’m going to spend a lot of time being a jackknife defensively, being a guy who can go anywhere on the pitch.
Kyle Grabowski can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.