Midnight on Campus met with Erik Ostberg in an exclusive interview to learn more about the gem of the little-know America East Conference.
Erik Ostberg, catcher and DH for the Hartford Hawks got off to a strong start this season. He has been hitting .537 (2nd overall) with 7 doubles, 4 homeruns and a 1.000 SLG% in 10 games. He talked to Midnight on Campus about his career in baseball, the university of Hartford and his expectations.
Midnight on Campus : Could you introduce yourself and talk about your career in baseball ?
Erik Ostberg : My name is Erik Ostberg, I am from Northampton, Massachusetts. I can’t really describe my life without the idea of playing baseball at the highest level possible. Since I was a little boy as far back as I could possibly remember I wanted to play D1 baseball, and furthermore professional baseball. Everything else always seemed secondary, and I planned my life choices around becoming the best, most focused and driven player I could be.
I feel that through High School and into College I have put together a memorable career thus far. 2-time Prep Player of the Year in High School, 3-time WNEPBL First Team All-Star, Northeast All-Region First Team. Thus far in college I have been lucky enough to receive :
- First Team All-New England (2016)
- Second Team All-Conference (2016)
- Second Team All-Northeast Region (2016)
- America East All-Academic (2016)
- CoSIDA All-District 1 Academic Team (2016)
As well as being a Futures League All-Star in 2015, and an NECBL All Star in 2016. I am pleased with my development thus far, but have not reached my ultimate goal.
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MoC : Could you introduce your university (as far as athletics go), which is not well-know by our audience ?
E.O. : The University of Hartford is a small school about 8,000 students in the America East Conference. Teams in our conference include Maine, Binghamton, Stony Brook, UMass Lowell, UMBC and Albany. We don’t have football or hockey which may be why mainstream media does not pick up on it as much.
However, we have a fantastic baseball program under our coach Justin Blood, who was responsible for recruiting some of the best classes at UConn in previous years with players like Nick Ahmed, Mike Olt, Matt Barnes, and George Springer just to name a few.
MoC : How would you define the baseball player you are ?
E.O. : I like to think of myself as a offensive presence and a gritty defender. I take pride in always being tough out at the plate, and impacting the game anyway that I can. I take great pride in quality at-bats, and limiting the amount of times I strike out.
I have had to work to develop my defense a lot over the past couple years. I want to be known as someone who is consistent behind the plate who is always calm, but aggressive and is the same player day in and day out.
“It has only been 10 games but I am happy with how things have transitioned”
MoC : The 2016 season was the best of the Hartford baseball program with 37 wins and it was accepted by most, at the beginning of the season that the conference title would be within reach in 2017. Despite a bad start (1-9 overall, 0-0 conference) do you think that there is still a chance to reach the top of the Conference ?
E.O. : We could absolutely finish atop the conference. Ultimately only our conference record really matters. While all games matter, the conference games are most important. We use the first series at the beginning of the year to really see what we have, and what we need to do better. Work different guys into different spots and see how guys react. We have great pieces on this team and I have no doubt we can still make a run at a title.
MoC : You had a great sophomore season in 2016, and since the beginning of this one, you have been fantastic, putting up big numbers. How would you explain this great start (it seems that you became more powerful between 2016 and 2017) ?
E.O. : I have always had the ability to hit for power, coming into my freshman year a lot of people at Hartford and the media expected that from me. However it takes time to develop. I have become much better at working through at-bats and taking advantage of pitches that I expect to come.
My approach is far more refined, allowing me to feel comfortable. I did many things well last year : hit for average, limited my strikeouts, had tons of walks, and had good situational at-bats leading to a high RBI total. I felt that I could drive the ball more.
Over the winter I really spent a ton of time at my training facility, the AP Academy, working with guys like Nick Ahmed and Mike Ahmed, and Mike Olt and our hitting guy Pete Fatse (who also played under coach Blood). Really working on setting better angles and working up through the baseball, creating more efficient movements and allowing myself to use the bat speed and power that I have been able to flash at times. It’s only been 10 games but I am happy with how things have transitioned.
“I am focused on simply winning games, trying to get Hartford a first title in school history”
MoC : How did you experience your first 10 games ?
E.O. : I have been living great first 10 games, trying to stay focused and in a comfortable routine, getting as much sleep on the road as possible to prepare for games.
MoC : What are the goals that you have set yourself this year ?
E.O. : Coming into the year I certainly wanted to hit for more power, drive the ball more in advantage counts and show that I could be an everyday catcher. We had two senior catchers last year which had me in the DH role, mostly during my sophomore year. I didn’t want to change what I do well, but simply build on it and become a more complete player.
MoC : At the end of this season you’ll be eligible for the MLB Draft. Do you think often about that ?
E.O. : A lot of guys will tell you there not thinking about the MLB Draft : the truth is that most are. I have an advisor and have had several workouts during the winter with MLB teams, and have been in contact with many of them. I have been preparing my entire life to be at my best this year as a junior and realize my lifelong dream of playing professional baseball.
I have always looked at those guys and wished and hoped and worked to put myself in a position to be selected this year. I have always thought it was a possibility through a focused and disciplined work ethic.
However at the moment I am focused on simply winning games, trying to get Hartford a first title in school history. When someone focuses on competing and helping teammates, that is when the best results are obtained. That is my goal and focus right now, and see how everything shakes out in June.
MoC : After your good 2016 season, have you thought about leaving Hartford for an another college with better renown ? Why ?
E.O. : I have never thought about leaving Hartford. I am thankful for the opportunity these coaches gave me when they recruited me. I have developed as a man, and a player here and am thankful for the experience I have had thus far. I owe everyone here my very best while I wear a Hartford uniform and am proud to wear it. It’s been proven we can play with anyone in bigger conferences.
“I can play with any team and any conference in the country”
MoC : But don’t you think that playing in the America East Conference is a disadvantage for you in the draft ?
E.O. : I mean Hartford has had many draft picks in the past, including a first round pick in Sean Newcomb back when I arrived at Hartford my freshman year. Yeah we aren’t on TV as often, but I still have pride in players that have come out of this conference in the past.
Our coaching staff does a good a job as any preparing guys for the next level. Half our staff played professionally, and know what is required and how to prepare our guys mentally and physically.
MoC : You played a 3-game series against Arizona, one of the best teams in the country. Even if Hartford lost the 3 games, did you feel a personal satisfaction to compete at this level against such a team ?
E.O. : I’ll never forget the series out in Arizona, especially going deep over the center field wall in the first inning of the first game. I felt I proved a lot out there, that I can play with any team and any conference in the country. Certainly gives me a nice confidence boost coming back to the Northeast. I will never forget it.
MoC : What current or former MLB player is a model for you ?
E.O. : There are a lot of guys offensively I look at. I love how Anthony Rizzo goes about his work, how calm he is at the plate, his two strike adjustments, it’s amazing to watch. Defensively, I look at a guy like David Ross, and how calm he is in his receiving. I want to continue to work on being calm, limiting my movement as much as possible. He does a great job of that.
MoC : Is there one MLB franchise in particular that you’d like to join ?
E.O. : I’d play for any team in the MLB. Which ever one wants to give me an opportunity to play, I would be honored, does not matter to me in any way.