Q&A with Rangers 1st Round Pick Mike Olt

Rangers supplemental first-round selection Mike Olt has posted big numbers during his three seasons at the University of Connecticut, and he batted .318 with 23 homers and 76 RBI this year. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 21-year-old third baseman, who expects to sign soon.

Mike Olt says he's ready to leave the University of Connecticut and begin his professional career, but it wasn't before he did plenty of damage to the school's record books.

One of the top hitters in UConn history, Olt has belted a school-record 44 home runs in three seasons [despite an injury-shortened sophomore campaign].

The Connecticut native has been a strong performer in all three of his collegiate seasons. As a true freshman in 2008, he earned Freshman All-American honors, batting .318 with 13 home runs, 18 stolen bases, and a school-record 61 runs batted in.

And this past season produced his best results yet.

As a team leader, Olt helped lead his UConn club to a 48-16 overall record. No previous Huskies team had ever even reached the 40-win mark. The school also hosted an NCAA Regional for the first time since 1990.

On a personal level, Olt was outstanding, hitting .318 with 13 doubles, 23 home runs, and 76 runs batted in. He flashed his raw power late in the season, winning the Big East Tournament's inaugural home run derby.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound prospect began his collegiate career as a shortstop, but he has since slid over to third base, where his body and strong arm profile best. Olt projects as a third baseman in professional ball, as well.

He has plenty of experience with a wood bat, playing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League after his freshman campaign and in the Cape Cod League last summer.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 21-year-old shortly after the draft.

Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on going to the Rangers in the supplemental first round?

Mike Olt: I'm very excited. I think it's a great fit for myself. I feel like the Rangers organization trusts their farm system, and it's a great place for me to learn and grow and move up through the ranks. I'm just real excited.

Cole: Were you drafted about where you thought you would go?

Olt: I didn't have much idea. I talked to scouts, but nobody really told me where they saw me. I was focused on the season. I was just hoping to get a chance somewhere in the first two days, hopefully, so I can get out there. But it was a surprise to go on the first day, for me.

Cole: I read that you were UConn's first first-round selection since Charles Nagy in 1988. What does that mean to you?

Olt: Yeah, I guess that's true. It's kind of crazy. There have been a lot of great UConn baseball players to come out the last couple years. It's an honor.

Cole: Who was your area scout with the Rangers?

Olt: It's Jay Heafner. He's the northeast scout.

Cole: How much contact have you had with him and the Rangers in general in the past?

Olt: I was contacted by Jay in the fall. We had a nice dinner together and then throughout the season––he met up with me in the beginning and then towards the end of the season. We were in pretty close contact.

During the season, no scouts really communicate with you because they let you go off and do your thing. But he made sure that the Rangers were interested, which was great.

Cole: It seems like particularly in the last couple years, you guys have really built up a good thing at UConn. First off, tell me about your season as a team and getting the experience of hosting a regional.

Olt: This was a very special year, to be part of a team like we had. Going into the first day of practice, everyone knew that we had something special. The way we went about our business day-in and day-out was something that was great to be part of.

We were determined to make this the year that we make the regional, go on and make the Super Regional, and make the World Series. We put all the effort in from the fall and into the winter. When it came season-time, it was a lot of fun to see it all play out.

Cole: With UConn getting to host its first regional in quite awhile, you guys had quite a few fans come out, didn't you?

Olt: Yeah, it was a great turnout. On Friday, it was a nice Friday game. I think that it was borderline sold out. I think they had maybe 6,000 people around there. It was great to see a bunch of Branford people up there. Everyone was supporting us from all around, and it was a lot of fun to be part of that.

Cole: On a personal level, what were your thoughts on your season?

Olt: I feel like it went well. I had a tough season last year, with the injury and ups-and-downs and working through that. But this year, it went a little more like I wanted it to. I owe a lot of that to the coaching staff. They worked a lot with me in the offseason to make improvements on how the summer went. That's a big part of my success. It went well.

Cole: You pretty much performed well from the second you stepped on campus at UConn. But from the start up to right now, how do you feel you've improved your game?

Olt: I would say defensively was the big improvement that I've made in my game since my freshman year and sophomore year. I owe a lot of that to the coaching staff putting their time into getting those extra ground balls and going over certain situations. Just making sure that when it came game time, it was all second nature. That was a big part of my game that I improved.

I definitely improved my approach at the plate. My freshman year, I kind of got in there and it was grip and rip and hope for the best. But our coaching staff did a great job of letting me understand what counts are good to swing in and what pitchers are doing––scouting reports and that kind of stuff.

It's just studying the game a little more, and that has helped me mature as a baseball player. I feel like there's a lot more than just the physical aspect of the game now. Getting into college and getting the mental part of the game has been a big change for my game.

Cole: The Rangers took you as a third baseman, but you've played a lot of shortstop in the past, haven't you?

Olt: Yes, I have. I played my freshman year and part of my sophomore year at shortstop. Wherever the Rangers need me, I'm happy to play.

Cole: Do you feel more comfortable at one of the two places at this point?

Olt: I do feel more comfortable at third base, but not by much. Shortstop––I've been playing since I first picked up a glove. I don't feel too much more comfortable at third base, but I definitely see myself as more of a third baseman than a shortstop.

Cole: You won the home run derby at the Big East Tournament this year. Was that the first time they'd held that event?

Olt: Yeah. They tried having it last year and it got rained out. This was the first year that they'd had it, and it was a lot of fun to be part of that.

Cole: Had you ever been part of a home run derby like that in the past?

Olt: I did one in the NECBL All-Star Game. And then I did one at the American Legion World Series. They're a lot of fun to do.

Cole: Assuming you sign, you'll be making the switch to the wooden bat. You've played in the Cape Cod League, and you mentioned the NECBL. How do you feel with the wood bat?

Olt: I feel very comfortable with the wood bat. My freshman year, I feel like I had a great summer, and it was the first real summer that I had used a wood bat. I thought I did well with that.

Then in the Cape, it was a great experience being there with the wood bat and facing the best pitching in the nation. That's something that was a big part of the improvement in my game. As long as I'm healthy, I feel like I won't have a problem adjusting back to the wood bat.

Cole: Being a guy that has the opportunity to return to UConn for your senior season if you wish, can you talk about your chances of signing versus going back to school?

Olt: I'm definitely ready to start my pro career, and the Rangers have done a lot to make that happen––to make the process very easy for me to get to that point where I'm about to sign.

It's obviously tough to give up that last year in college and know that there's a great bunch of guys on that team. There's a great future for them, but it's time for me to pack up and start the next chapter of my career.

Cole: So you feel you're pretty close to getting the deal finished up?

Olt: Yeah, I'm pretty close. I was supposed to go to Arlington [on June 10], but I made a change and I'll be there soon. We're going to meet with Nolan Ryan and go over a bunch of things. Hopefully by then, it'll be all said and done.

Cole: Do you know where you'll be going once you do sign and report? Will it be Spokane?

Olt: Yeah, it's going to be Spokane.

Cole: Once you get into pro ball, what are some things that you're really looking forward to working on, whether it be with the minor league coaches or the strength staff?

Olt: One thing I'm going to be looking forward to is just basically learning everything––soaking everything in. The coaching staff is going to have a lot to offer, and it's a big part of getting better day-in and day-out––improving mentally with the game. I think the big thing for me is just going to be taking everything in and learning from everything.

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