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Mike Olt: Modern Day Moosup Moose

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February 26, 2010

If Mike Olt was playing college baseball in Southern California instead of Connecticut, he might be on a few more radar screens than he is right now. Olt is little more than a name on a follow list to most of the country, but he has one of the hardest skills to find in baseball. Simply put, power to all fields. And yes, with wood.

Olt’s 2009 season at Connecticut was forgettable for a wrist injury that occurred when he was hit by a pitch. When he came back, he checked his swing and snapped a tendon. Doctors told him he was done for the season, but Olt decided that he wanted to hurry back. He finished with eight home runs in 146 at-bats, then went to Orleans in the Cape Cod League. There, Olt hit three home runs in 124 at-bats. Stats are misleading here in the sense that these home run numbers, for this kind of player at this stage, with this kind of adversity, and who plays in the Northeast, are not bad.

It’s not easy to play your way into the National radar out of the Northeast, but if you know your history, you know the region is good for a right-handed hitting power guy every now and then. When Olt and his older brother Brad played together at UCONN in 2008, they became the first brothers at the school since the Dropo brothers.

Walt Dropo, for those of you enchanted by history, was a beast in 1948 for the Birmingham Barons. On the way to the Red Sox, he played at Rickwood Field where teenager Willie Mays was a rookie for the Birmingham Black Barons.

Olt moves well for a player listed at 6-2, 210, with strength and physical projection. A college shortstop and third baseman, he figures to stay on the left side of the infield as a pro. His arm and fielding will play enough to stay, but his power is what will determine his pro path. Baseball Beginnings caught up with Olt for this quick Q&A.

Baseball Beginnings: So 2009 was a rough year. Tell us why.
Olt: I hurt my wrist early in the season. I got hit with a pitch on my left hand, then came back, and snapped the tendon when I checked a swing. I missed about 25 games. It was a tough injury. I couldn’t even train for two weeks.

Baseball Beginnings: How badly did it set you back?
Olt: I did as much as I could. Doctors said I’d be out the rest of the season, but I wanted to show that I could make it back.

Baseball Beginnings: Did that make the Cape more important for you?
Olt: I wanted to have some live at-bats. I didn’t want to be rusty. I feel like I’m getting caught up. I’m starting to see the ball a lot better. At first, it was a struggle. Lately, it hasn’t been as bad. I think everyone struggles here to some degree, but I feel like I’ve started to put more swings, better swings on balls, and really show that I can throw the bat head and drive a ball.

Baseball Beginnings: Where do you see yourself, short or third?
Olt: I’ve been an infielder all along. I played shortstop my freshman year and moved over to third as a sophomore. I think I’d be rangy enough to stay at short, but I wouldn’t mind moving to third. Looking down the road, I would see myself at third base.

Baseball Beginnings: The Dropo Brothers and the Olt brothers are linked in UCONN lore. How does that make you feel as a Connecticut guy? I’m from California and even I know who the Moosup Moose was.
Olt: We heard about that and we thought it was pretty cool. It was a great experience. Brad showed me the way early. It was fun to have him there every step of the way.

Baseball Beginnings: Were you drafted out of high school?
Olt: No.

Baseball Beginnings: Were you scouted, to your knowledge, in high school?
Olt: I tried not to think about anything like that. (Branford HS) is a small school. Connecticut is tough to get drafted out of. There has to be a lot of connections and you have to be able to showcase yourself a little bit more. Something that was important for me was to go to school. So we didn’t feel it was as important to showcase. I felt that I needed to go to school. So I played in state and we didn’t do any of that.

Baseball Beginnings: Your path will be different. In this era, it’s a much more difficult path. What do you think that says about where you’re from and where you are going?
Olt: It’s something that you definitely have to work a lot harder in order to be known. It’s something that you have to be willing to work harder.

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