Pending Sun Devil Sanctions Guide Decision…
(From Bobby Fernandez of the Greeley Tribune)
Nearly three decades ago, Eaton baseball coach Jim Danley borrowed the knuckle curveball from Oklahoma State University.
After more than 25 years, the Reds are returning the favor in the form of arguably the most effective knuckle curve-tosser in Eaton history.
After a solid season at Arizona State University, former Eaton standout Kyle Ottoson is transferring to the unofficial birthplace of the Reds’ version of the knuckle curve, Oklahoma State, where Ottoson will spend his senior year.
“It’s just a new change,” Ottoson said of the move. “Oklahoma State is more of a farming, agricultural area. It’s more country, and I kind of like that because that’s kind of where I came from (in Eaton). It will be a nice change of scenery.”
Perhaps it’s only fitting that Ottoson will finish his college career at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ program is partially responsible — at least indirectly — for the immense success Ottoson has had as a left-handed pitcher.
In the mid-80s, Ottoson’s high school coach, Danley, was sitting at home watching baseball on T.V. when he noticed an Oklahoma State pitcher throwing a sharp-moving breaking ball that resembled a spitter.
Danley made the trip to the OSU campus in Stillwater, Okla. After some prying, Danley received basic information on the unorthodox pitch from Cowboys assistant coach Tom Holliday, who is the father of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday.
More than two decades later, the Reds’ version of the knuckle curve is as refined as it is devastating. The pitch has played a large role in Eaton’s nine spring titles, and numerous other summertime titles, since 1994, turning good pitchers into great ones and transforming great pitchers into virtually unbeatable ones.
There are few, if any, better examples than Ottoson, who lost just three times (34-3) during his high school career before embarking on a collegiate career with South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona State and now Oklahoma State.
Ottoson’s variation of the knuckle curve has movement that may be unrivaled by any knuckle curve ever thrown in Eaton or elsewhere, for that matter.
“Kyle’s (knuckle curve) is such a devastating pitch because it is like the ol’ fashion overhand curve — yet it breaks even more sharply,” Danley said. “Once it starts down, boy, it’s difficult to hit. If you hit it at all, you get groundballs. There are no groundball home runs in organized baseball.”
In recent years, Ottoson has complemented his knuckle curve with a developing arsenal that includes a beefed up fastball, which now routinely hits marks in the high 80s and has flashed as high as 91 miles per hour.
Ottoson, who was been drafted by a pro organization four times since he graduated from Eaton in 2008, will try to parlay his growing repertoire into a successful senior season as he prepares for his inevitable jump to the pros.
“My goal is to be a starter (at Oklahoma State), maybe throw a little harder and develop a fourth pitch,” Ottoson said. “I’ve been working on a slider a little bit, and it’s coming along. Those are things I know will help me out when I take that step to pro ball.”
Ottoson will join a Cowboys program that is fresh off a 35-25 season, 14-12 in the Big 12. Oklahoma State’s potential for team success this season was one factor that grabbed Ottoson’s attention.
Arizona State will likely look to the future as it is postseason ineligible this season because of NCAA infractions that occurred under former coach Pat Murphy.
“I knew it was a possibility that (Arizona State) wouldn’t be able to go back to the postseason, but that was all (that influenced) my decision,” Ottoson said. “I’m excited for this opportunity (at Oklahoma State). I can’t complain.”
» In his most recent college season, with Arizona State University, he had a 3-1 record, a 3.38 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 22 walks in 53 1/3 innings as a junior.
» He’s been drafted in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft four times: In 2008 by the Colorado Rockies in the 39th round, in 2009 by the New York Yankees in the 36th round, in 2010 by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 48th round and this past June by the Washington Nationals in the 24th round.