Cal State San Marcos University’s Austin Ott’s right arm is back and so is a certain feeling.
“The chemistry is really nice,” Ott said of the Cougars. “When we had that run at Vista, it was just like this.’’
Ott returns for CSUSM after being idle last year following Tommy John surgery. With his elbow fixed, the infielder’s bat is back on a squad that opens against Concordia-Irvine on Feb. 2.
“It’s about time,” an antsy Ott said. “I’m looking forward to this being a good season.”
When chatting about outs with Ott, the conversation veers to Vista High. As the team’s lone sophomore in 2013, Ott helped it win the Avocado League title, a CIF San Diego San Diego Section banner and a state crown.
Vista had two future pro baseball draftees in Brett Seeburger and Billy Roth and Ott completed the rotation. When Seeburger pitched, Ott played right. When it was Roth’s turn, Ott was the designated hitter.
Despite his age, Ott was never left out on a championship squad.
“It was sweet,” Ott said. “I was definitely the young guy on a really talented team. But it was the chemistry we had that was the difference.’’
Ott will be a difference-maker in the Cougars’ deep batting order. Second-year CSUSM coach Matt Guiliano happily scribbled Ott’s name in the lineup for the first time in a recent scrimmage.
“He has raw power, plenty of speed, great barrel awareness at the plate and the knack to just get it done,” Guiliano said. “Him getting back in our lineup will help us tremendously.”
Ott, who paced the Cougars in 2016 in doubles and three-hit games, couldn’t help himself in accelerating his rehabilitation last season. It was a chill year for Ott.
“It was mentally exhausting just watching,” the junior said. “But I think the injury happened for a reason.
“Last year’s team was kind of rough because (Guiliano) didn’t really get to recruit after being named the coach at the last minute. Now I get to play on an amazing team, with the players on board for the stuff he brings to the table.”
Guiliano gets the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Ott back, has revamped the pitching staff and he promises to be aggressive on the bases.
“I’m surrounded by guys that want to compete; you can tell (Guiliano) went out and got the right guys,” said Ott, a former Vista High athlete of the year. “And I love playing for him.”
Playing for anyone is a blessing for Ott as he’s cognizant of his second chance.
“I will never take baseball for granted again,” he said. “It can all end so quickly that you just never know.”
Ott’s gotcha moment came in relief in 2016. He threw a curveball when preparing for a three-inning stint and knew something was amiss.
“I tried the curveball again and I could tell something wasn’t right,” he said. “I played second base the rest of the season but I could barely throw the ball.
“But being hurt has only fueled what I want to do this year. I think the sky is the limit for us.”
The finish line isn’t necessarily when the regular season ends. With CSUSM being a Division II member, the Cougars are eligible for the playoffs.
“That is what we are looking forward to,” Ott said. “We have something to play for.”
His teammates will do so with Ott having their back.
“Austin is one of those players that’s going to make everyone else better,” Guiliano said. “He will be fun to watch this year.”
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org com. Follow him @jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports