Early in the 2019 Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) season, a scan of the power hitter statistics will show Richard Ortiz at or near the top of several categories.
Through the first nine games of the year, the catcher and first baseman with the Fort McMurray Giants is batting .324 with four home runs and 13 runs batted in (RBI). He’s also got three doubles and a walk-off triple in 37 at bats.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound slugger from Ponce, Puerto Rico just wrapped up his senior season at Grambling State University. In 18 games with the Tigers, Ortiz hit .351 and scored 16 runs. He also punched out a pair of long balls and produced 14 RBI in his 74 at bats.
This is Ortiz’s second season with the Giants. He also played in Fort McMurray in 2017 and since returning he clubbed his 10th home run for the Giants to become the all-time franchise leader in long balls, eclipsing former teammate Keegan Marsden’s mark of nine round trippers from two years ago.
We caught up with Ortiz recently to ask him seven questions as part of our new player-profile feature called 7th Inning Stretch. Here’s what he had to say:
1. What has made you so successful in hitting for power early in the season?
It’s nothing special. I played here two years ago, so I know how the system works and how everything works here and I’m just trying to make the best of it. It’s my last year playing here and probably my last year playing baseball, so I’m trying to make the best of it.
2. You played for the Fort McMurray Giants in 2017. Why did you decide to return to the Giants and the WCBL this season?
(Fort McMurray recruiting coordinator Andrew Bradbury) called me and he said that seniors can play in the league, so I took advantage of it. I wanted a place to play my last senior year, so Andrew called me and I answered the call and now I’m here.
3. Normally you’re a catcher, but it looks like you’re putting in some time at first base for the Giants. Will you play both positions?
I’m switching off. I’ll catch one game, I’ll DH (designated hitter) the other one and then I’ll play first in another one. We’re switching off here and there.
4. You’ve competed against former Edmonton Prospects head coach Ray Brown before. What’s it like now having him as your head coach in Fort McMurray?
It’s awesome, man. I remember him in Edmonton two years ago. He remembered me and we have a good connection between the coach and player.
5. How did your senior year of baseball go at Grambling State University?
I had a tough year. I lost my grandfather before the season started, so I had a tough year but I’m here to rebound so we’ll see how it goes.
6. Between your bat and your glove, which one are you most likely to pamper?
My bat, always. My bat 100% … especially, if I had a choice to make, it would be a Tucci. That’s one of my favourite bats that I use. I’ve used it in the Coastal Plain League, another summer league in Virginia, and I loved it.
7. What’s your go-to movie, TV show, book or video game when you travel?
I’m not a big movie guy but on an eight-hour bus ride we usually play a game as a team. It’s called Mafia. That’s our go-to every time.