The Orioles' fourth-round pick in the 2019 Major League Baseball amateur draft will likely need somewhat less time to adapt to living in Maryland than some of the other new players the team drafted June 3-5.
Joey Ortiz, a junior shortstop from New Mexico State, played for the Baltimore Dodgers of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League in 2017. He became familiar with the city, sampling local staples like crabs and crab cakes and took a trip to what he hopes will be his home field at Camden Yards.
"I was pretty surprised [when I got drafted]," Ortiz said on
Glenn Clark Radio
June 6. "I guess it kind of started my college career over there, so it's kind of cool to be able to get the call from Baltimore -- a place that I've already been, that I know people from."
Ortiz posted a strong slash line -- .320/.363/.477/.840 -- to go with 25 RBIs and 17 stolen bases during his time with the Dodgers. Ortiz said he wasn't familiar with the lore of playing shortstop in Baltimore, but said he now knows about Cal Ripken's streak of consecutive games played and the legacy of the position.
"I actually wasn't really aware of it, but now that I kind of have a little more baseball education, it's kind of cool to be able to come to a place like that," Ortiz said, joking that he wouldn't have any problem playing 2,000 consecutive games as Ripken did because of how much he loves the game. "[I'm] someone who has great energy, always trying to get better every single day and really just trying to be as good as possible and make the organization something great."
For Ortiz, his junior season was a breakout year. He and his fellow New Mexico State infielder, second baseman Nick Gonzales, got the Aggies off to a hot start in their first game of the season, a 20-2 shellacking of Texas Southern.
Ortiz went 5-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs in the game. Gonzales also had a hit in each of his five at-bats, and two were homers.
"I think it was the first weekend. Me and my buddy Nick, we're going back and forth and back and forth," Ortiz said. "Actually, my first hit of the year was a home run and that was kind of like the eye-opener of, 'Maybe this is going to be a different year,' like putting in the work and making sure it's a good year."
By the end of the season, Ortiz and Gonzales had the two best batting averages on the team. Ortiz's average jumped from .289 as a sophomore to .422 as a junior. He led the Aggies with 106 hits and 25 doubles to help New Mexico State earn a share of the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title.
The biggest difference between his sophomore to junior year was his improved physique, Ortiz said. He prides himself on his defense and models his game after Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez.
"Just putting the working every day, really -- not that I lacked my first two years -- but the type of work that I put in this year was just so much more, and I'm just happy that I can show up this year," he said. "I put on a lot more muscle. I feel like I was a lot stronger. That way balls I was hitting at people were going over their head and I was hitting balls harder to the gap."
For more from Ortiz, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of New Mexico State Athletics