York Revolution manager Andy Etchebarren knew he had some big shoes to fill when he found out first baseman Ian Bladergroen would not return to the Revs this season.
Bladergroen retired after playing in 130 games at first base for York in 2010. He was solid offensively, hitting .280 with 17 homers and 86 RBIs. But it was his defense that really impressed Etchebarren.
“I knew how many errors (Bladergroen) saved from us from committing last year with throws from the infielders,” Etchebarren said. “So, I knew I had to replace him with a good defensive first baseman.”
Etchebarren feels confident he has found just that in 6-foot, 4-inch Mark Ori.
“Ori is a 90- to 95-percent fielding percentage guy for his career. That’s pretty high,” Etchebarren said.
The Northwestern University graduate has also surprised Etchebarren at the plate so far in spring training. Ori has arguably been York’s hottest hitter in the spring. Through Tuesday, Ori has batted 7-of-18 (.389) in five exhibition games, with a home run, six RBIs and five runs scored. He also has two doubles and a triple.
“I’m surprised by his power a little bit,” Etchebarren said. “He’s hit a home run and two off the wall. Just looking at his numbers, he’s always been a pretty good hitter and he’s a doubles guy.”
Ori, 27, has played at first base his entire career, and he credits part of his solid defensive skills from playing ice hockey with his brothers. That sport has helped with his lateral movement.
Ori’s two older brothers were college ice hockey players, including Joe, who recently retired after playing professionally in Germany. Joe also spent time playing professionally in the United States in the East Coast Hockey League and Central Hockey League.
“I played hockey, too. And it’s helped. But I feel like every sport I’ve played has helped me in some way,” Ori said.
While his older brothers pursued ice hockey careers, Ori eventually settled on baseball because “it was my first love.”
In addition to baseball, Ori was also a highly-recruited high school football player at wide receiver, turning down offers from Notre Dame and “some other Big Ten schools.”
“Baseball was the sport I loved. I had only started playing football in high school. Looking back, I’m glad I made the choice because I’d be all beat up by now if I stuck with (football),” Ori quipped.
The left-handed hitter played three years at Northwestern before being drafted by the Houston Astros in 2005. A career .280 hitter, Ori was released by Houston at the end of last season after playing in 113 games for Class A Lancaster (Calif.), where he batted .284 with 52 RBIs and four homers.
While Ori is penciled in as York’s opening-day first baseman, Etchebarren said Jason Botts might also see time there.
“Botts has surprised me. He’s played pretty good there. I think we’ll be OK either way,” he said.Read More