As a freshman last year, Ricky Orta pitched in one of the biggest games of the collegiate baseball season at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Not many freshmen, let alone players, get to play in a College World Series game.
“[The College World Series] is a lot bigger than I thought,” Orta said.
The 6’2”, 200-pound sophomore right-hander chose to stay in his hometown of Miami after graduating from Florida Christian in 2003. Earning the team’s MVP award in his last three seasons playing for the Patriots, Orta went from merely pitching as a sophomore to playing first base and pitching in his junior year. In his senior year, Orta went undefeated with a record of 8-0 and a 0.25 ERA. On the other side of the plate, Orta wielded a mean bat, hitting .447 with 15 home runs and 43 RBI’s.
Does this mean that in an emergency, Orta could play the field for an injured player if he’s not on the mound that night?
“No way, but I could still probably beat out [Danny] Robitaille for third,” Orta joked.
Orta’s local fan base is strong, buthis support system is also stable from pre-game, where his preparations include eating breakfast, listening to music and sharing a prayer with his dad before each start. All of this happens pretty early since the team shows up to Mark Light Field as early as 2:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game.
Other pre-game festivities the team partakes in include getting a famous milkshake from the stand between the main grandstands and the Ron Fraser building. Every player has a favorite, whether it is the traditional vanilla, chocolate or Orta’s choice.
“It’s called ‘one of his’, chocolate strawberry with double chocolate and whipped cream,” he said.
Known for being a great hurler of fastballs and curveballs, Orta’s confident in controlling the game, but like any athlete, it’s difficult to be on top of your game every start.
“I can control all of my pitches, but depending on the day, sometimes only two will be working at the start but as you get into the game they all come naturally,” he said.
One thing Orta said he needs to improve on is getting a little more speed behind his fastball and as a sophomore, there is still time.
As dedicated as he is to the ‘Canes, baseball doesn’t take up all of Orta’s time year-round. Spear fishing is also a hobby of his. His prize catch is a 60-pound grouper he caught when he was in the Bahamas.
Instead of the Bahamas, Orta could be heading out west for another trip to Omaha for the College World Series. The stadium in Omaha is the Mecca of college baseball, as Williamsport, Penn., is the Mecca of Little League.
“You’re surrounded out there,” Orta said. “Instead of bleachers just being on the sides like here at ‘The Light’, there are people all around you, and when we were there, nobody wanted us to win of course. It was the most nervous I’ve ever been, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Rodolfo Tomarchio can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.