St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak has collected several left-handed arms to compete for time in his team's bullpen in 2009. Though Ian Ostlund signed a minor league deal, he may be the most interesting.
In 456 career minor league innings, Ostlund has posted a tremendous showed tremendous control with 441 strikeouts compared to only 110 walks. Pitching for the Toledo Mud Hens in 2008, "Oz" posted a 2.45 ERA in 69.2 innings. He allowed only 62 hits and 17 walks while striking out 77.
I was able to catch up with Ostlund recently and he discussed baseball as well as life at home with his two sons.
Dustin Mattison: How is your off-season going?
Ian Ostlund: I am enjoying a tremendous off-season. I'm currently a stay-at-home-Dad with my two sons. My eldest, Troy is 3 ½ and my youngest son, Grant is 1 ½. They are finally at the ages where they will often play for hours together. Naturally, they have their fair share of fights and tantrums, but all in all we have a great time being together. I always feel a sense of urgency when I'm home with them, to do as many fun and exciting activities as possible. Yes, I am only home five months out of the year, but I feel that I definitely make up for the time away with the exceptional time we spend together while I am at home.
DM: Tell me about Ian Ostlund the pitcher.
IO: I'll be the first to admit that I do not possess an overpowering fastball, devastating breaking pitch or deceptive movement. I do however, possess several intangible skills that enable me to still compete and excel at a high level. I have always prided myself on being a fearless competitor. My history shows that I go right after hitters. I try to maintain the mindset, that as the pitcher I am the "hunter," not "the hunted." There is a big difference between the two mentalities. I do not think I'd still be around if I consistently fell into the trap of pitching "defensively."
Second to maintaining my mindset, I have always maintained myself. Yes, I am indeed 30 now, but I'm in better shape now than I was at 20. I attribute this in part to late-maturation, but mostly to a fervent desire to be the best I can be. It was a desire instilled in me at an early age by my parents, and groomed along my journey by my family, coaches and friends. I aspire to reach the Major Leagues as much for them, as for myself.
Thirdly, I have always kept myself diversified. By that I mean, I do not pride myself at being good at only one thing. I stay actively involved in a variety of activities in and out of baseball season. I find that it helps me maintain a positive demeanor when I take the mound. If I put all my eggs in one basket and got hung up on every bad pitch, outing, or day at the yard, it would undoubtedly consume me. I've seen lots of players over the years fall into that very pitfall. Because I stay diversified, I'm more easily able to forget all the "bad" and prepare for the "good" still to come.
DM: Can you tell me about your repertoire?
IO: My arsenal consists of two- and four-seam fastballs, a slurve and changeup. I can throw strikes with each of them, in any count. I'm certain that makes it tougher for opposing hitters to "pigeon-hole" what pitch I‘ll throw next.
DM: What made you choose the Cardinals this off-season?
IO: I've always held the St. Louis Cardinals organization in the highest regard. Growing up in rural small-town Virginia, there were only a few players that I knew personally that had made it into the ranks of professional baseball. One such player was Tom Bocock. Though he never played in St. Louis, he did reach Triple-A for the Cardinals. Unfortunately for Tom, he had a certain fellow named Ozzie Smith ahead of him. I always looked up to Tom and respected him. In a strange twist of fate, I now live only four blocks away from him. His son, Brian Bocock, was on the opening-day roster for the San Francisco Giants just this past year. Is it in the "cards" that I might face the son of my childhood hero this coming season? I guess time will tell.
DM: You played the last two seasons at Toledo. Any Jamie Farr sightings?
IO: Unfortunately no Jamie Farr sightings, in person that is. He does welcome fans to Fifth Third Field for each game via the outfield video-boards.
DM: You had a fantastic season at Triple-A. How frustrating was it not to get the call to the big leagues especially with the Tigers' struggles?
IO: The word "frustrating" just doesn't seem to embody just how tough it was not to get "the call." I always told myself that if I could pitch consistently well in Triple-A, then I would finally be offered a Major League opportunity. When it didn't happen, I really felt like I letdown my wife and kids back home. They make unbelievable sacrifices for me to do what I do. This is where keeping my mind "diversified" really paid off. Though I didn't end up where I wanted to with regards to my baseball career, I still excelled in other areas. I was able to maintain an overall positive mindset and get on with my life.
DM: What are your goals for the upcoming season?
IO: The obvious answer is, "to pitch in St. Louis." However, learning from last season, I just want to stay healthy and not diverge from what has made me successful in the past, unless of course, Dave Duncan sees fit to do so. I feel that if I do those things, I'll keep myself in a position where my dream just might come true. I know that ultimately all I can control is how I go about my business on and off the field. If one focuses only on where he wants to be, then it's easy to lose sight of what needs to be done to get there.
DM: I want to take you back a few years. I want to make sure I have my story correct. When you were in high school, you pitched a no hitter and recorded every out via the strikeout. What do you remember from that game?
IO: Strangely enough, what I remember most is that I almost didn't pitch that game at all. I was suffering from serious arm pain at the time. I told my coach that I would feel my way through the first inning, and go from there. As I took the mound to start the District Championship game, we had another pitching warming up in the pen. He wouldn't be needed.
I remember my arm still hurting through the first 3 innings, but after that the pain kind of fell by the wayside. When I finished the 5th inning with my 15th punch-out of the night, still having not surrendered a hit, I began to get the feeling that it might be my chance to shine. I knew that the game was being broadcast over the radio, and judging by the steady stream of headlights entering the center-field parking lot; people had been listening.
As I took the mound for the 6th inning, the home bleachers erupted with cheers of motivation. Even some of the visiting team's fans came to their feet, clapping. They too sensed this was not "just another game." I worked my way confidently through the frame, again fanning the side. That is when the "butterflies" set in…..
As I sat on the bench all by myself, I remember thinking about how hard I had worked to get where I was. I recalled the hours I spent honing my mechanics in front of the mirror, running up the hills of our farm until I was on the verge of revisiting my lunch. Throwing baseballs against our barn doors not satisfied until I had punched a hole right through them. As I took the mound in the seventh and final inning, the butterflies were gone.
The final line for the night was: 7 inning complete-game victory, no hits, three walks, and 21 strikeouts. It was only the second time in Virginia High School League history that the trick had been turned. And to think, I almost didn't pitch that game. Since that night, I have never once turned down an opportunity to take the ball.
DM: You started your college career at VMI and then would later transfer to Virginia Tech. Can you take me through your decision to transfer?
IO: The decision to leave VMI to attend VA Tech was a tough one. One just doesn't endure months of Hell in the "Ratline" (VMI's freshman right-of-passage) to just walk away before senior year. I had set VMI pitching records for single-season wins and saves, as well as career-records for wins and saves. I even co-designed our class ring. However, upon completion of the baseball season my junior year, it was announced that the entire coaching staff was being let go. Most of my teammates and I were devastated by this news.
VMI is an institution that instills in its cadets, a sense of duty, brotherhood and honor. Feeling a strong sense of duty and brotherhood, I called upon the standing Athletic Director at his home one afternoon. I told him that most of the team and I was distraught over the recent decision to fire the coaching staff. I was aspiring to make it to the professional ranks and I knew my present coaches were working hard to help me achieve that dream. I gave the Director an ultimatum that if he followed through with his decision, several of my teammates and I would also be leaving. A week later, the official decision was announced. Being men of honor, several of my compatriots and I began searching for new programs. It was a hard move to make, but the right one nonetheless.
DM: You had Tommy John surgery in 2004. I know a lot of our readers would love to hear a first hand account of how one goes through that process, the surgery, the rehab, etc.?
IO: The Tommy John surgery in '04, was actually my second surgery in my pro-career. First, in 2002, I underwent arthroscopic surgery on my pitching elbow. I had five lima-bean-sized bone chips removed from the joint. I also had a significant level of scar tissue removed. This is pertinent because as I would later find out, arthroscopic elbow surgery is quite often a precursor to Tommy John surgery.
Halfway through the 2004 season, I was pitching well in High-A ball in Lakeland, Florida. I had compiled an ERA under 2.00 and was enjoying great "feel" for all of my pitches. I was very hopeful for a promotion to Double-A in the coming days. However, my optimism was short-lived. While throwing a curveball, I felt an obvious "pop." Not entirely believing what I had just felt, I shook my catcher until he called for another curve. This one didn't make it halfway to the plate. A shock of pain coursed through my arm and neck. Somehow, I finished the inning.
Between innings I had our trainer examine my arm and massage the muscle. I begged the manager to let me take the mound once more. He, against his better judgment agreed. Though my fastball actually gained velocity (clearly due to adrenaline), I couldn't throw a curveball anywhere near the zone. As the manager later pulled me from the game, I knew what lay in store for me. I just didn't want to believe it.
In July I was flown to Birmingham, Alabama. I had requested to have my T.J. surgery performed by the well known and respected, Dr. James Andrews. The day before I was scheduled to undergo the operation, Dr. Andrews met with me and explained the procedure. He told me how I was lucky because I had a tendon in my left wrist that they would "harvest" and use to replace my torn Ulnar-Collateral Ligament. Apparently, not everyone is born with this tendon. Many Tommy John surgery recipients have to have a tendon taken from their thigh. He assured me that my recovery would be less painful since only one area of the body would be cut.
I won't bore you with all of the details of rehabilitation, but I will tell you that it is immensely humbling, frustrating, uncomfortable, exhausting and lengthy. It took me two years before my arm felt "normal" again. And by "normal," I mean that I could attain consistent arm speed from pitch to pitch, and throw a curveball with any confidence.
DM: I asked you about Ian Ostlund the pitcher, tell me about Ian Ostlund the dad.
IO: Being a father is the accomplishment I'm most proud of. My wife and I have been blessed with two beautiful sons, Troy and Grant. I always joke that I've secured my "hunting future" with the birth of each of my boys. My wife doesn't find the joke humorous.
As each baseball season approaches I'm faced with the same dilemma. Should I play, or should I stay? In my hierarchy of importance I place God first, family second, and career aspirations a very distant third. I always do quite a bit of praying and talking with my wife to come to a decision. So far, my decision has always been to play. I truly believe that even though staying home and forgoing my career might at times be the easiest choice; down the road a ways, I'd ultimately regret it. I am blessed to have a great support network here at home to help fill my shoes in my absence.
DM: Tell me about your role with Shenandoah Valley Outdoors.
IO: Shenandoah Valley Outdoors is a local cable-TV outdoors show. Our broadcast area encompasses much of the Shenandoah Valley. I have served as a Pro-staff member and the Promotions Coordinator for the past two seasons. Not only is it my job to get out "into the field" on outdoor adventures (cameras in tow), but also conduct interviews and secure equipment sponsorships. Occasionally I am also asked to speak at Outdoor Sportsman events. (Photo by Justin Powers, of Ian hunting with Virgil Vasquez of the Red Sox)
Being strictly an archery hunter and fly-fisherman, I hope to show new outdoorsmen and women that pursuing game and fish "the more difficult way", doesn't necessarily mean the "less successful way." Since I switched exclusively to hunting and fishing "the hard way," I've actually arrowed record-book whitetails in back-to-back seasons and landed bigger trout than ever before. I use the ample downtime during the baseball season to hone my skills in the two disciplines.
Being a T.V. personality provides a unique opportunity to influence people's lives. Through the television program I have introduced countless individuals to the wonders of God's creation. Television is a tremendous platform to speak from and I strive to use it for good.
DM: I believe I know the answer to this but what do you enjoy doing when you are not playing baseball.
IO: First and foremost, I enjoy spending time with my family. As a family we love to hike, bike, camp, picnic, and make daily excursions to local playgrounds. Obviously, I love to spend time hunting and fishing as well. Unfortunately, neither of my children are quite old enough to accompany me on most of my forays. I also really enjoy renovating my home. Our house was built in 1904, so there is plenty of maintenance and upgrades to be performed. I take pride in being able to do all the work myself, well almost everything. Two off-seasons ago we needed to replace wiring in our dryer. I did my level best to do it right. Unfortunately, when I plugged it back into the wall socket, the only thing that got "juiced," was me. I wasn't right for 20 minutes. From then on, I've left that "stuff" to the professionals.
DM: What should Cardinal Nation know about you that they probably don't already know?
IO: Well, I just signed on as an Outdoor Writer with a local newspaper. I am an artist; my mind filled with ideas for children's books that I'd one day like to write and illustrate. I serve as a Pro-Staff member with a new cutting-edge camouflage company zerodetectcamo.com. I enjoy public speaking and really love getting to know my fans. I come from a place where we leave our doors unlocked and our keys in our cars. Friends are welcome for supper even without an invitation, and we greet one another as we pass on the street. I am thrilled to call the St. Louis Cardinals organization my new home and look forward to meeting each of you on down the road.
DM: Be sure to check out the website, svoutdoors.net, to see Ian in action. I thank Ian for his time and look forward to see him in action in 2009. I have a feeling that we he will make his big league debut in Cardinal Red during the upcoming season.
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