Oswald continued to adjust and left batters baffled
June 3, 2016
Jonny Oswald has been a very good pitcher throughout his four-year career with the Ramstein Royals. This year, he became great.
And he became the 2016 Stars and Stripes baseball Athlete of the Year.
“He learned the art of pitching,” Ramstein coach Tom Yost said.
The improvement is remarkable in part because of how good he has been throughout his prep career. After starring at the local youth level, Oswald developed into a four-year fixture at the top of the Royal rotation, flashing elite potential as a freshman and steadily improving on it over the years that followed.
But his senior year was special, and not just for the usual sentimental reasons, or even exclusively for Ramstein’s successful pursuit of a fourth straight European title.
As Yost explained, Oswald made the transition this season from artisan to artist.
Here’s a primary example of the difference. Oswald’s fastball tops out at about 86 miles per hour. That’s an overpowering velocity for the average teenage batter, who at best could hope to foul it off and earn a look at another one. But more adept opposing hitters could anticipate that fastball, at that speed, and time their swing accordingly to put it in play.
So Oswald developed what Yost called a “BP fastball,” an abbreviation for batting practice. This pitch reached the plate at around 78 miles per hour. Now even those few hitters who could catch up to the top-speed heat had to pause and consider exactly what was headed their way. Mix in a reliable curveball, slider and changeup - that last another off-speed pitch, distinct from the BP fastball, meant to play with a hitter’s expectations - and Oswald was approaching unfairness.
“Depending on the day, some pitches work better than others,” Oswald said. “It’s nice to have those multiple pitches.”
As he perfected his art, Oswald also grew into his role as a leader of DODEA-Europe’s resident diamond dynasty.
“Jonny has meant a lot to the Ramstein baseball program over the past four years,” Yost said. “His work ethic and drive has led a group of players to put the extra work into the program.”
That’s exactly what Oswald set out to do. Once a “really shy” freshman, Oswald grew to enjoy the role of veteran leader for a team that restocked with fresh young talent each spring.
“Mostly my goals were just to help the team out,” Oswald said. “It was nice to meet new guys and help them out the best I can.”
Oswald is now looking ahead to his next challenge. The Florida native plans to head to the University of Tampa, a strong NCAA Division II program, and work his way onto the varsity squad. Given his constant success and steady improvement in high school, it’s a plan with a good chance of success.
“He comes to practice every day with the mindset that we will be better today than we were yesterday,” Yost said.