Hart base­ball trio mak­ing waves

In­di­ans coach Jim Ozella rel­ish­ing op­por­tu­nity to watch for­mer play­ers play in MLB post­sea­son

The Signal - - SPORTS - By Ryan Pos­ner Sig­nal Staff Writer

When Hart base­ball coach Jim Ozella flips on his tele­vi­sion to watch the Ma­jor League Base­ball post­sea­son, he’s given an ex­pe­ri­ence likely no other high school coach in Amer­ica can re­late too.

Maybe he’ll see one of his for­mer pitch­ers, Trevor Bauer, gear­ing up for a Game 1 start for the Cleve­land In­di­ans in the Amer­i­can League Divi­sion Se­ries.

Maybe he’ll catch an­other one of his for­mer hurlers, Mike Mont­gomery, fill­ing his dy­namic role within the Chicago Cubs’ ro­ta­tion.

Or maybe he’ll catch his for­mer short­stop, Pat Valaika, crush­ing a dou­ble into the right-cen­ter gap in his only at-bat for the Colorado Rock­ies in their Na­tional League Wild Card game loss.

“I couldn’t be more proud of th­ese guys be­cause each one of them has had to bat­tle ad­ver­sity to get where they’re at,” said Ozella, who’s coached the In­di­ans since 2000. “Yeah, you can say

Trevor and Mike were first-round picks, but they haven’t taken an easy route to get to where they are.”

Bauer gar­nered the Game 1 start against the New York Yan­kees, which was met with skep­ti­cism as some won­dered why ace Corey Klu­ber wasn’t cho­sen.

Ozella knows that kind of doubt only stood to help Bauer.

“That’s right up Trevor’s al­ley, man,” Ozella said. “Trevor loves the chal­lenge. He loves to prove peo­ple wrong and loves to rise to the oc­ca­sion.”

All Bauer did was hold the Yan­kees hit­less for 5 1/3 in­nings, a Cleve­land post­sea­son record. He al­lowed just two hits and struck out eight over 6 2/3 in­nings en route to his first post­sea­son win.

“That takes a spe­cial guy right there,” Ozella said. “Any­body who watched his sec­ond half (of the sea­son) shouldn’t have been sur­prised with that kind of per­for­mance.”

Bauer strug­gled in his Game 4 start, though, sur­ren­der­ing four runs in 1 2/3 in­nings of work. Mont­gomery had sim­i­lar strug­gles, al­low­ing a three-run gamewin­ning homer to Ryan Zim­mer­man of the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Just like in Mont­gomery’s days at Hart, he had a voice of sup­port ready at his dis­posal.

“I texted him af­ter he let up the home run and said, ‘Hey, just rally, to­mor­row is an­other day,’” Ozella said. “He texted back and said, ‘Only wor­ry­ing about to­day, just got to turn the page.’”

“I get such plea­sure when I see the pro­gres­sion of ma­tu­rity like that. It’s one of the main rea­sons I do what I do.”

Valaika was a key bat off the bench for the Rock­ies his rookie year, set­ting the club’s rookie record with three pinch-hit homers. He ended the year with 13 homers to go with a .258 av­er­age.

“It’s not an easy job to come off the bench and hit, pe­riod,” Ozella said. “But it’s es­pe­cially hard for a younger guy, and he thrived in that role.”

Hav­ing for­mer play­ers in the post­sea­son hasn’t just been for Ozella’s view­ing plea­sure. It’s had a ma­jor ef­fect on his cur­rent pro­gram.

“It’s in­spir­ing to the play­ers,” Ozella said. “I al­ways tell them, ‘Th­ese guys were 14 and 15 year olds play­ing on this field, just like you.’”

“It shows them the dream isn’t un­reach­able. With a lot of luck, a lot of time and a lot of de­vo­tion, it can hap­pen.”

Dan Mend­lik/Cleve­land In­di­ans

Hart grad Trevor Bauer has made an im­pact for the Cleve­land In­di­ans this post­sea­son.

Dan Mend­lik/Cleve­land In­di­ans

Hart grad Trevor Bauer dur­ing a game this sea­son. He is one of three for­mer In­di­ans to make an ap­pear­ance in play­offs.

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