Trade ‘almost like being drafted again’
By Dick Goss email@example.com January 29, 2011 4:40PM
Plainfield South graduate Ethan Hollingsworth was recently traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Oakland Athletics. | Sun-Times Media File Photo
Updated: June 27, 2011 12:18AM
How strange it was for Ethan Hollingsworth.
As a celebrity guest at last weekend’s Wish Upon A Star Benefit Softball Game in the Snow at St. Joseph’s Park, the right-handed pitcher spent his time representing the Colorado Rockies, his employer, in his typical class manner.
And then Monday, he was working out at a local gym and missed a phone call.
“It was from the player development coordinator of the Rockies,” he said. “I tried to reach him, and he didn’t answer.
“I did not think it was that big of a deal at that point.”
Oh, but it was. When the two parties made connections another hour or so later, the 23-year-old Hollingworth learned he had been traded to the Oakland Athletics for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen.
“He (the Rockies’ representative) thanked me for two years with them, and I thanked him for what they did for me,” the 2005 Plainfield South graduate said.
Shortly afterward, the assistant general manager and pitching coordinator from Oakland were on the phone, welcoming him to his new team.
“Wow, all of a sudden I am with the Oakland A’s,” Hollingsworth said.
The emotions he felt were what you might expect. Initially, disappointment, having to leave the friends he had made over the last 2 1/2 years.
“But then I started thinking about the opportunity I have been given, and now I’m pretty excited about it,” he said.
Mortensen, who is 25, was an all-star last season in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and pitched briefly in the big leagues the last two seasons. Given that, Hollingsworth, the Rockies’ fourth-round pick out of Western Michigan University in 2008, said he is viewing the trade as a positive.
“The Rockies obviously felt they wanted a person who could help out at Triple-A and the bigs right away, and I’m not to that point yet,” he said. “But I feel I will get there eventually, and I’ve been given a good opportunity. It’s not like I got traded for a guy in rookie ball.”
Hollingsworth admitted he does not know much yet about the Oakland organization. “This is almost like being drafted again,” he said. But what he has heard has been positive.
“When you’re around this game, you hear some bad things about some organizations,” Hollingsworth said. “But I’ve only heard good things about Oakland, not that I have heard that much.”
Hollingsworth is coming off a season where he excelled at Modesto in the A-Advanced California League, which is considered a hitters’ league. He finished 12-8 with a 3.31 ERA. In 160 1/3 innings, he allowed 161 hits and walked only 34 while striking out 153. Opponents hit .260 against him.
He also received a brief midseason promotion to Double-A Tulsa and made two starts there,
“The Cal League is a hitters’ league and it worked out decently well for me there,” Hollingsworth said. “At least I got a shot in Double-A, and although I didn’t pitch well there, I learned a lot in two games.”
Hollingsworth, who is 24-24 with a 4.33 ERA in his pro career, will report to the A’s minor league camp March 8. Where he begins the season is not set in stone, but Double-A Midland, a rival of Tulsa in the Texas League, is a possible scenario.
Hollingsworth throws a sinker and four-seam fastball, a slider, curve and changeup. His time on the gun is in the 88-92 mph range, but he does not concern himself with that.
“My command was OK last season,” he said. “I was able to improve my strikeout-to-walk ratio, which was good. The gun was something they put on you before the draft. Once you’re pitching (in pro ball), it’s all about movement and command.”
Hollingsworth admits there probably will be a certain amount of pressure performing before a new audience beginning March 8.
“But these teams have scouts at every game, they had reports on me, so they knew pretty much what they were getting when they made the trade,” he said. “It’s not like that will be the first time they see me throw.
“Plus, you can’t worry about any of that. All I can do is pitch when they give me the ball.”
In the first 2 1/2 years of his professional career, he has done exactly that.
“My results have been OK so far,” he said. “I’ve been healthy, made my starts. If you stay healthy, you have a shot.”
Mac at Michigan
During some of his career at Western Michigan, Hollingsworth was a teammate of Providence Catholic graduate Grant Simotes, who is from Minooka. Simotes is about the enter his senior season with the Broncos.
Meanwhile, his younger brother Mac, who played multiple sports for two years at Minooka before his family moved to Michigan, is a preferred walkon at the University of Michigan.
Mac was a first-team baseball all-stater at Hackett Central Catholic in 2010 and second-team all-stater in 2009. He had signed with Western Illinois out of high school, but he had injury issues and wound up turning down the scholarship. He spent last fall at the IMG Baseball Academy in Bradenton, Fla. before getting an opportunity at Michigan.
As his dad, Larry, told me, “If Mac doesn’t play at all, the worst thing that can happen is he is on the team and he gets a Michigan education out of it.”
Minooka graduate Jimmy Harding has played a grand total of 12 minutes and scored 4 points this season for the Illinois-Chicago men’s basketball team. What’s so special about that, you ask?
Well, Harding is a senior playing his final season, all as a walkon. No scholarship money for basketball.
Despite that, he has put in the time necessary to be a team member in good standing at a Division I school for four years. And, he is an engineering student.
While accomplishments in the athletic arena usually dictate who gets how much ink or air time from the media, it is a feel-good change of pace to review the accomplishments and dedication of a kid such as Harding.