Talon Ottens is eight years away from even being draft eligible, but that didn’t prevent the Oxford resident from walking onto the same Suntrust Field the Atlanta Braves call home Saturday.
Ottens was one of three in his 9-10-year-old age division to advance to the regional MLB Pitch, Hit & Run competition. Ottens got to Atlanta by winning the local competition held last month at FNC Park, as well as the sectional held in Pontotoc. If Ottens was able to come out on top again, he could be in the outfield in Washington D.C. during the annual Home Run Derby next month.
Baseball is a sport Ottens has been playing since the age of five when he could first place the ball on a tee. He currently pitches and plays middle infield on the Oxford Wolfpack, a local travel team that is managed by his father, Mark.
On Thursday, just before leaving for Atlanta, the Ottens were at FNC Park working on all three skills. A pitcher needs to hit a target as many times as they can in six tries because they get 75 points for each strike thrown. They also run bases, starting as second, and being able to run to home under 10 seconds gets the most points. At home plate, a ball is placed on a tee and the batter needs to place three balls in the air — on a line preferably — that reaches the grass in center field to gain the most points.
“Your best ball counts, it’s where it lands, and they subtract the distance from the center as your score,” Mark Ottens said. “So, if there is a 300-foot field from center out and you hit one 10 feet off at 200, they subtract 10 feet off your 200. That’s your points for your hit. A line drive is what you’re looking for.”
Ottens had his son practice hitting line drives from a tee that was placed right at his belly just to make sure he had the right swing and placement for the competition.
“He’s been pretty good at getting them in the outfield and off the tee, right up the middle,” Mark added.
Mark said that when his son signed up for the local event through the Oxford Park Commission, he didn’t know what to expect.
“He just told me he wanted to come compete and he ended up winning the overall for the local contest and then in the sectionals at Pontotoc, they take the overall score from three state regions,” Mark Ottens said. “They take the top three of the sectionals to go to team championships. Pitch, Hit & Run usually starts out with 700,000 kids and he is down to the round of 90.”
All 30 MLB teams host a team championship, and Atlanta was the latest to host the event. Talon was excited about the trip, and he felt good about his training leading up to his latest challenge. His father said that he trained every day for two weeks just for Pitch, Hit & Run.
“We didn’t expect to be in the round of 90 kids competing. We just signed up to have some fun and see what he could do,” Mark Ottens said. “If he wins in Atlanta and has one of the highest scores out of all the MLB parks, then he will go to the Nationals’ park to compete just before the Home Run Derby at the All-Star game. The winners of that are the kids that actually get to catch the fly balls during the derby.
Talon Ottens said he didn’t have a favorite team, but his favorite pitcher is fireballer Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets. His favorite Rebel pitcher is Will Etheridge because he throws strikes. Ryan Olenek is another favorite Ole Miss player, he said.
“He studies the pitchers and studies their motions,” his father said. “He studies the Ole Miss players. He loves it.”
Courtesy of John Davis and the Oxford Park Commission
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