In lots of methods, the Opitz family is each Colorado sporting activities royalty and Heritage’s initially family of baseball. But they are even now seeking for their initially big-leaguer.
Jake (33 years old), Shane (28) and Casey (21) all starred at the college, the place their moms and dads fulfilled at a baseball activity in 1979. All a few ended up drafted out of Heritage. Jake played at Nebraska and attained Triple-A with the Phillies, and Shane attained Triple-A with the Blue Jays.
Now, the family’s last shot at the majors arrives with Casey. A two-year starter at Arkansas, the change-hitting catcher is projected to be picked in the 5-round MLB draft on Wednesday.
“I absolutely sure hope this is the greatest Opitz to arrive, for the reason that neither one particular of us more mature brothers could crack the big leagues,” stated Jake, the manager for the rookie-league Grand Junction Rockies. “So, it’s on him now. But he’s acquired a distinctive skill-established and he’s possibly the very best catcher in the country. He’s just unbelievable guiding the plate, and that, along the changes he’s manufactured in his change-hitting, is likely to get him a prolonged way.”
Casey commenced change-hitting at about ten years old, which was all-around the very same time he converted to catcher from center infield. The positional improve had then-Heritage mentor Scott Hormann at first unsettled — till he acquired to witness firsthand the prowess of the youngest Opitz guiding the plate.
“I realized I had a pro participant before he even arrived to high college just for the reason that of his brothers, but when Jake, Shane and (dad) Jeff resolved to switch him into a catcher, I was like, ‘I don’t know, fellas — he’d be the very best shortstop this college would at any time see, or the very best second baseman,’” Hormann stated. “But it was pretty evident by his sophomore year that I had on my fingers the very best defensive catcher I’ve at any time been all-around (at the prep level).”
All those defensive expertise translated to the SEC. As a freshman Casey served as a backup on the Razorbacks’ national runner-up crew, and was the primary catcher last time as the college manufactured a different Higher education World Collection appearance. This spring, as a junior, he was named to the observe list for the Buster Posey Countrywide Collegiate Catcher of the Yr.
“As much as catching and dealing with a pitching staff members, he’s about as good as it will get at this level,” Arkansas head mentor Dave Van Horn stated. “Offensively, he’s also manufactured a ton of the strides the last pair years, and he’s place on some good body weight and gotten stronger.”
Following slashing .235/.370/.290 as a sophomore, the 5-foot-eleven Casey hit the body weight space and place on about twenty five lbs . last offseason. All those gains, in conjunction with a extra aggressive method in the box, had the 21-year-old slashing .302/.361/.509 by means of sixteen online games as a junior before the NCAA time was canceled for the reason that of the coronavirus pandemic.
“He had his struggles in 2018, and persons like to aim on that, but at the very same time that was a a hundred and seventy-pound child enjoying in the very best convention in the globe,” stated Shane, who was an assistant mentor this spring at Northern Colorado. “He even now did a (heck) of a career and served guide his crew to the Higher education World Collection. And so this year, all of a sudden that a hundred and seventy-pound child is 195 and he’s receiving the bat by means of the zone more quickly, he’s getting extra aggressive.”
Jake stated he’s “heard a ton of interest” from a variety of groups in Casey, despite the fact that practically nothing on the Rockies’ front. Even if Casey isn’t picked in an immensely shortened draft that ordinarily operates 40 rounds, the catcher can repeat his junior year at Arkansas in 2021 if he needs, for each the NCAA’s granting of an added year of eligibility thanks to the pandemic.
‘With the rule improve the place fellas get the year back again, it’s generally good to have that in my back again pocket in scenario a thing improvements,” Casey stated. “But ideal now, I’m completely ready to get the next move in my vocation.”
The silver lining to all the present uncertainty and Casey’s canceled time at Arkansas, the place the Razorbacks ended up primed for a 3rd straight trip to Omaha, is the time the a few brothers have been afforded to devote with each other. Not due to the fact Jake was in high college has the trio been ready to indulge in the activity with just about every other on a frequent basis. More than the last a number of months, they’ve been lifting in the gym in Shane’s basement and then hitting at Mentor Hormann’s facility.
All the even though, Casey proceeds to soak in the wisdom of two ex-ballplayers who want to see him do well extra than any one.
“They sprinkle in assistance whenever they can,” Casey stated. “They’ve been teaching me due to the fact I picked up a bat and glove the initially time prepping me for high college ball, faculty ball, slight league ball, the entire method. Anything from baseball to daily life, I’ve learned from them… It was difficult to see my faculty time get taken absent, but it’s magnificent I’m likely by means of the final levels of this (draft) method with the brothers who have pushed me due to the fact the get started.”