Feb. 11, 2012
By Derrick Fazendin-
With the start of the college baseball season under two weeks away and Major League Baseball’s spring training creeping closer and closer, more former Wildcats are starting make appearances around Hi Corbett Field. This week ArizonaWildcats.com caught up with former UA second baseman Bryce Ortega.
Ortega, a senior last spring, played for four years and was a member of the 2009 All-Pac-10 Team. The Washington Nationals drafted him in last year’s MLB Draft in the 41st round.
ArizonaWildcats.com: How does it feel to be back training in Tucson knowing you won’t be playing baseball as an Arizona Wildcat this year?
Bryce Ortega: Well it’s much different out here this time, especially being at Hi Corbett Field. It has some really nice facilities, just a really nice place. But it really feels like home because all the players and coaching staff are here.
ArizonaWildcats.com: It seems like a lot of the former Wildcats have echoed that same feeling. What would it have been like for you to play here during your collegiate career?
Bryce Ortega: Well it would have been really nice, that’s for sure. I have no regrets playing at Jerry Kindall Field/ Frank Sancet Stadium. I have great memories there but the fact that the facilities are just so compact and everything, being right here (at Hi Corbett) has to be really nice for these guys.
ArizonaWildcats.com: As a player, do you think it is extra motivation to come play hard everyday when you have a facility of this caliber to walk into?
Bryce Ortega: For sure, and I also think since it’s off campus now you drive up to the field and there are no distractions, like with all the other teams in McKale. You just pull up to the facility and you just strictly focus on baseball and there’s nothing else to worry about. It’s a good way to get your mind right.
ArizonaWildcats.com: What was your favorite moment of your collegiate career?
Bryce Ortega: I really enjoyed my freshman year because no one really gave me a shot at playing or anything. We were ranked No. 1 in the nation and I got to play shortstop on the team. We had a really good year that year making it to the Super Regional and fell a little short of Omaha. But just the fact that I wasn’t really considered a prospect or anything and I had to earn my spot on that team was really special to me.
I mean it was also just really fun getting to travel to a lot of places because I have family all around in San Diego, Los Angeles, Oregon, and Seattle so really everywhere I went people could come watch me play and that was really cool.
ArizonaWildcats.com: How did it feel when you were drafted by the Washington Nationals last year?
Bryce Ortega: It felt really great. I know I had to overcome a lot, especially with my back injury (junior year) and everything. A lot of teams shied away from me because they didn’t know how healthy I was going to be long term. Just the fact that someone has given me the opportunity feels great and I hope to take advantage of it.
ArizonaWildcats.com: How is your back?
Bryce Ortega: It’s doing really well. I have no problems with it anymore. I don’t have to ice it or any of that stuff. I still stretch it out and stuff to keep it strong, but it doesn’t bother me at all. My only focus is going out there and playing hard.
ArizonaWildcats.com: What do you think this Arizona team is capable of accomplishing?
Bryce Ortega: This team has a lot of potential. We were ranked No. 1 in the nation when I was a freshman and we didn’t make it to Omaha, but on paper I think this is a really strong team and I just hope that as far as health goes there aren’t too many major issues because I was injured my junior year and I know how that is. But if this team can stay healthy I think the sky is the limit.
Bryce Ortega: As far as the left side of the infield goes, both guys could play D-I shortstop and it’s going to be really difficult for anyone to lay down a bunt or strike a base hit through the left side of the infield. Just the fact that they both work so hard and they’re so determined, I think they both could have pretty big years. I honestly can’t think of a better left side of the infield in the entire country.
ArizonaWildcats.com: Trent Gilbert is a freshman competing for the starting spot at second base. As a player that started as a freshman in the middle infield, what would you tell Trent?
Bryce Ortega: I would tell him just to be confident. Everyone thinks you come to a D-I school and it’s some big scary thing and it intimidates people. But really it’s the same game. The players are a little better, but if you got here and coach (Andy) Lopez has recruited you then obviously you’re good enough to be here. I think he’s going to be a good player.