Ortiz Is A Take-Charge Guy

He's the youngest player on the team, his English is limited as is his pro experience. So, the tendency might be to hang back at bit- be a follower, not a leader, watch, don't speak out. But that's not the Jamie Ortiz way. No, this kid from Puerto Rico is every bit an on-field leader for the Gulf Coast Dodgers, a take-charge guy, exhorting, encouraging his teammates.

Perhaps the best of all this that he leads by example as well. Despite his lack of experience, he's the cleanup hitter on the team- one who can get up in the tough situation and often produce a key RBI. Why, the best at-bat anybody on the team has had to date was his.

That was as a pinchhitter down in Jupiter. He didn't start that day because Nick Alvarez was down re-habbing so he was at first. But in the ninth in a scoreless game, two runners got on so Jamie was sent up against a heat-thrower. They battled to 3-2 when he took a 90-plus fast ball and rode it over the right field fence some 400 feet away for a game winner.

That's been his only dinger so far but Ortiz has a smooth lefthanded swing that promises a lot more to come. He's been compared to Franklin Stubbs in his mannerisms at the plate and it seems apt. Stubbs' stroke made him a first-round pick and carried him to a satisfactory major league career. Ortiz was only a seventh-rounder but if he can carry on like Stubbs did, he'll do just fine.

And he knows what he has to do to accomplish that. "I have to learn to hit curve balls and hit to all fields, " he acknowledges. For in both areas his approach is rudimentary. He's a dead-pull hitter and his recognition of breaking pitches is minimal.

He just turned 18 last week and unlike other Puerto Ricans in the system- his team, lefthander Wilfredo Diaz and Ivan DeJesus, Jr. up at Columbus- he didn't attend the Baseball Academy back home but stuck strictly to high school ball. Still, he thinks it was a good test and prepared him for the pro game. And that, he acknowledges is tough but he's getting with it.

His bat is the most intriguing part of his game though he plays first with some style. At 6-3, he goes up for the high throws and he can scoop well, too. In a league with some scatter-armed infielders, his skills over there have been appreciated.

He weighs 215 and is working with weights to get stronger. When that happens, it's likely that a lot more balls will be leaving the park. In the meantime, though, he's driving the ball through holes and into gaps- and often at a crucial moment in the game.

Saturday there were two outs in the first inning when Preston Mattingly doubled and Jamie followed with a clean shot through the right side for an RBI that got the Dodgers off to a big win. And that was against highly-touted first-rounder Colten Willems of the Nationals.

He's getting accustomed to this country. Even the name has been altered slightly for it's properly "Jaime" but he answers to "Jamie". Mostly, though, the others answer to him as he keeps them moving with endless chatter and big plays.

His average is climbing toward .280 now as every day he looks more and more like one of th wiser draft choices the Dodgers made in 2006.