SHIPPENSBURG - Travis Ott was busy celebrating his recent high school graduation when he got the news from a handful of family and friends.
Though Ott may have been busy schmoozing well-wishers outside, some at his grad party were focused intently on the computer inside the house, waiting to see Ott’s name pop up on the screen. When it did, a dream was realized for Ott, and it became apparent that he might just have to schmooze those well-wishers a little more.
With the last pick in the 25th round of last weekend’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, the Washington Nationals scooped up the Shippensburg High School left-handed pitcher. With three of the Nationals’ minor league affiliates — not to mention the big club — within a two-hour drive of his home town, Ott is excited about the prospect of having family and friends around for his journey through professional baseball.
“I’m glad I got picked by a team that’s a little more known and closer to the area,” said Ott, who became the first Ship player selected out of high school since Dave Orndorff and Bobby Shannon were selected in 1995. “It feels good knowing they won’t have to go far, that my friends and family will be able to make it to some games.”
Of course Ott will more than likely start his career in Florida, and have to put in the work to make to higher levels closer to home, but if he’s as sharp as he was this season for the Greyhounds, the prospect of playing close by looks good.
Ott set a school record with 112 strikeouts this season, registering nearly two per inning. His 5-2 record and 1.82 ERA were boosted by a perfect game against Greencastle-Antrim and a no-hitter against Red Lion.
Not bad for someone who hardly pitched at all in his junior season.
“I’m very excited for Travis and I look forward to his future with the Nationals,” Shippensburg coach Dan Watkins said in an email. “He’s a very humble young man and has handled this experience extremely well.”
Ott, who stands 6-foot-4 and has a fastball that hovers from the high 80s to low 90s, fits the bill of the kind of player the Nationals were looking for in this year’s draft. With their first pick, the team took 6-foot-6 Dallas Baptist University right-hander Jake Johansen, whose fastball has touched 99 mph.
In total, the Nationals selected 22 pitchers.
“A lot of guys touching 95 mph or better, with secondary stuff,” director of scouting Kris Kline told the team website Friday. “Big, physical guys, which is what we like, it’s kind of our M.O.”
Ott said he wasn’t all that keen on the prospect of playing college ball if it came to it. Had he not been selected, his backup plans included junior college or a technical school, but he doesn’t have to worry about that now.
In the coming days he plans on signing and becoming an official member of the Nationals organization.
“I’m not really into the whole school thing, so I was hoping I got drafted,” Ott said. “I was hoping that I wasn’t gonna go real late, and I’m happy with where I got picked.”