Republished with Permission by Press Publications
First baseman Ryan Hotmer has always been known for his bat, a bat packed with more punch than an Olympic boxer.
Hotmer is now seeking a way to pack his punch with wood bats while playing for the summer collegiate Toledo Black Hawks in the Toledo Amateur Baseball Federation.
A 2010 Lake graduate, Hotmer smashed a team record 15 home runs during his three-year varsity career and finished his senior season with seven home runs and was a dominating presence on the mound, recording a 6-3 record with a 1.74 ERA in 52.1 innings pitched for the Flyers.
All of this success in high school prompted Hotmer to take his developing talents to Owens Community College this past season where he was one of the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference’s (OCCAC) most prolific and feared sluggers.
An imposing figure on the mound and in the batter’s box, Hotmer was an instrumental part of Owens’ 25-13 season and helped lead the Express to a second place finish in OCCAC play, while earning all conference honors as a freshman and turning more heads than a cranium doctor.
“I worked very hard in fall ball and over the winter with our new coaching staff and I became a much better hitter,” said Hotmer, who is studying physical therapy at Owens.
At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, Hotmer didn’t waste any time launching his trademark, tape-measure blasts at the college level. The left-handed hitting slugger powered his way to third on the team with a .374 batting average. He ended the season with two home runs — good for second on the team — and drove in 17 runs in 30 games out of the third spot in the lineup for the Express while sending flustered opposing pitchers to the showers early.
In limited action on the mound, Hotmer (1-0), who bats from the left side but is a right-handed pitcher, proved to be one of first-year head coach Del Young’s most reliable hurlers this season, firing 10.1 innings and allowing just two runs on five hits while striking out seven and walking four.
Young, who previously served as an assistant coach for six-plus seasons at Oakland University and Eastern Michigan University, was hired by Owens to take over the head coaching duties for longtime head coach Bob Shultz, who was forced to resign for unknown reasons after seven seasons at the helm of the program.
“I was recruited by the previous coaching staff as a pitcher," Hotmer said, "but when the new coaching staff took over they wanted to use me mainly at first base and a little on the mound. During our spring trip to Myrtle Beach, I got a chance to play first base and played well and just ran with it. I also pitched here and there when they needed me and I was pretty successful on the mound, as well.”
With one season in the books, Hotmer, 19, is working on further developing his skills and competition this summer with the Black Hawks, which also play in the Tri-State Collegiate League, a summer wooden bat collegiate baseball league based out of Gahanna, Ohio.
“It’s a difficult transition to summer ball because we use wooden bats, but I enjoy it. Summer ball is good and competitive baseball, but it’s also a little more lax. It’s a great way to work on my skills in a pressure free environment,” Hotmer said.
The Black Hawks are coached by former Major League pitcher Ron Rightnowar. Rightnowar, 46, pitched parts of one season for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1995, posting a 2-1 record and compiling a 5.40 ERA in 34 relief appearances.
Rightnowar, a 1982 Whitmer graduate and Oregon resident, signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1986 as an amateur free agent after playing collegiately at Eastern Michigan University and spent four seasons with his hometown Toledo Mud Hens, going 10-10 with 13 saves and a 4.67 ERA, before being traded to the Brewers in 1993.
Hotmer understands the unique opportunity he has to play for a former Major Leaguer and has taken full advantage of his coach’s vast knowledge of the game.
“Coach Rightnowar is a great guy and a great coach and he has really made all of us smarter baseball players,” Hotmer said.
Hotmer says the biggest adjustment from high school to college has been the skill level of his fellow players, but Rightnowar has helped to ease the transition.
“In high school, you can rear back and throw it past guys or easily guess what pitch is coming at the plate, but in college it becomes a guessing game and a game full of strategy and thinking. Coach has done a great job helping us understand that we need more than pure abilities to be successful at this level.
“As a pitcher, you have to outsmart the hitters, change speeds, and have a game plan. The same can be said at the plate. You have to know what the opposing pitcher is throwing you, learn from your mistakes, and readily make adjustments. And I think I’ve been able to do that with his (Rightnowar’s) help.”
In 22 games for the Black Hawks, Hotmer is hitting .222 (12-for-53) and is among the league leaders in RBI (14) and doubles (4). In 8.1 innings pitched for the Hawks, Hotmer has yet to allow an earned run and has five strikeouts.