By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Travis Ott had two plans after he graduated from high school.
He was either going to play professional baseball or he was going to be a mechanic.
The latter seemed like it was going to be the path he took on draft day in 2013.
“It definitely funny to think about now,” Ott said.
As each round of the draft ticked by, Ott thought his name wasn’t going to be called. The left-handed pitcher had recently graduated from Shippensburg Area High School in Pennsylvania, and was celebrating at a party during the draft.
Ott intently paid attention to the first 15 or 20 rounds, but after waiting around to hear from a team, he decided to head to the pool with some friends.
While Ott went for a dip, some family members were hanging out in the garage and listening to the draft.
“I heard everyone go crazy,” Ott said. “My mom and dad and everyone came running around the corner. My mom was crying. They basically yanked me out of the pool to tell me what was going on.”
He was selected by the Washington Nationals – which just happened to be his favorite team – in the 25th round.
Fast forward four years, Ott is now a pitcher for the Charlotte Stone Crabs in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization.
If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve seen him pitch at Charlotte Sports Park, you probably haven’t, because the 6-foot-4, 175-pound southpaw has an unforgettable leg kick. Seconds before Ott delivers his 90-mile-per-hour fastball, he kicks his right leg straight above his head which reaches well above seven feet In the air when he stands on the mound.
“In the beginning of this year I had a normal leg kick, but I had issues cutting the ball, which I’ve never had that issue before,” Ott said. “(Not matter what I tried) I couldn’t fix it. We started to experiment with things, and one thing led to another and we got the leg kick.”
Ott credits his previous experience in yoga with his ability to get his leg kick clear over his head.
In 14 starts this season with the Stone Crabs and in Bowling Green, Ott has a 2.61 ERA with 76 strikeouts and a 7-3 record.
“The bottom line with Ott, is if he can throw his fastball in to right handers to set up all his other pitches, he’s going to be good that night,” manager Michael Johns said. “And that’s what he’s done lately. He never got down on himself after his first few outings here.”
Ott recently took the mound in his 22nd birthday where it appeared as if nobody on earth could stop him from having a great outing. As it turns out, only mother nature could derail the gem he was throwing, as the game was postponed after four innings when Ott had faced the minimum 12 batters.
“I’ve pitched on my birthday a lot, and they usually go well,” Ott said. “I go out with a great mindset, saying this is my dad and I’m not going to let anyone else ruin it. I guess it’s just a little extra adrenaline for me.”
In a hypothetical situation, if it were to be Ott’s day to pitch on the day the Stone Crabs continue that game against the Palm Beach Cardinals, Johns hinted he may just have to let Ott go back out there to try to get a complete game.
If the stars align for that to happen, just like during the draft four years ago, a long wait may by worth it for Ott.