By: Jeff Roberson
Colby Bortles knew he was going to spend some time this summer with his NFL quarterback brother, Blake, working out in California. Then came the call that he was selected to participate in the Home Run Derby in Omaha.
Since the Rebels’ season ended, for Bortles it’s still been all about baseball and getting better and working toward his senior season. He plans to be back in Oxford later this month.
And he has some personal goals for improvement he has already been working on.
“I want to get stronger and thin down a little bit, which is a hard thing to do,” the third baseman said. “I want to trim down a little and get skinnier. Baseball-wise, I just need to be more consistent in all phases of the game. That’s the main thing I’m working on.”
Bortles wasn’t drafted. That was a surprise to some but perhaps not to others. Bortles knew who to talk to about it, not getting the call after his junior season, and that’s his old Ole Miss teammate, Sikes Orvis. The same thing happened to him two years ago.
“I talked to Sikes,” Bortles said. “He told me I had one year of college baseball left, and college baseball is the best thing in the world. Knowing I have one year left, I’m ready for the upcoming season. But, yes, we have talked. (As a team) we’ve got something to prove to everybody, and I’ve got to help make my last season special.”
When a talented player arrives for college, three years and gone is always the goal. It is often difficult to watch your class of teammates move on and you stay behind if that happens. Orvis dealt with it. Bortles says he is as well.
“Guys like J.B. (Woodman) and Henri (Lartigue) are really good friends of mine. I wanted the best for them. I was really happy for them. It is sad not having your good friends around next year. But we’re all friends on the team, and I’m ready to be a part of this year’s team.”
It was a tough ending to the 2016 season. The Rebels going two and done in their own NCAA Regional was difficult to accept. Then came the draft and his name never came up. But Bortles said it’s all about next year now, and he is excited about the 2017 Rebels.
“It was hard after the Regional and then the draft, seeing people get drafted, things like that. That’s human nature,” he said. “I fully expect to have a good team next season, and I’m ready for the fall.”
Sunday night in Omaha, he hit 10 home runs in the Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park. In front of 20,428 fans, Bortles and seven more of the nation’s top sluggers helped set a record with a combined 185 homers hit throughout the event.
Hagen Owenby of East Tennessee State University took home the trophy, defeating Houston’s Joe Davis in the final round. Bortles now regroups once again and focuses on his team and the upcoming school year.
“It’s a good time to recharge,” he said of the summer. “After our season ended, I was kind of dead and sad, however, you want to say it. I just needed some time to regroup and move ahead.”
And like Orvis in 2015, he returns as one of the veterans for 2017, a team captain from 2016 who will be a large part of whatever success Ole Miss has again next season. He will be joined by a large and talented group of newcomers who arrive this week. Bortles is excited to be a teammate with those new players, in addition to the ones who return.
“It should be really good for us with all these guys coming in,” he said. “I know the will to win they have and a lot of them are already close friends. It’s exciting to have that chemistry, and I’m looking forward to playing with all of them.”