A (Circuitous) Mike Ojala Update

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I am an idiot.

Not only do I feel, in retrospect, idiotic for having excluded Wade Townsend from my list of the greatest Owls ever (seek the list on your own; I refuse to link to that entry because my mug is no longer on the page), I am disappointed in you, Rice fanatics, for not creating enough hue and cry to elevate Townsend from No. 11 into the top 10. Inexcusable on my behalf and yours.

Why in the world am I railing against my own ignorance regarding Townsend when I am supposed to be discussing Mike Ojala? Well, when I wrote about Bobby Bell last week it inspired me to inquire about Ojala and his rehabilitation from mid-summer Tommy John surgery. I set out on that task, and while bumping around The Reck stumbled into a golden opportunity to watch Townsend pitch. It was a fabulously cool scene, so let me set it properly.

Townsend, a free agent looking to latch on with a pro franchise, took the mound at the indoor batting cage with a childhood friend offering support, Geoff Perrott behind the dish, The OG and David Pierce observing and providing advice and - get this - Jeff Niemann holding the gun. Townsend looked in excellent shape, touched 93 mph, and sat at 90-91. He's engaged in similar sessions with The OG and Pierce for a few months, and at this rate it's only a matter of time before a team extends him a contract offer. He clearly has the stuff to pitch professionally.

What made the scene so fascinating was the support Townsend had not only from his former coaches but his former teammate. That Perrott volunteered to catch only enhanced the camaraderie. Five people shared a mutual interest in Townsend getting his career back on track, with the level of dedication validating the unified belief that he will soon meet that goal.

Watching Townsend work provided a view into his legendary tenacity. I'd heard the stories of his barking at the Texas dugout while pitching against the Longhorns and been regaled of tales of his fiery disposition and competitive drive, but having never watched him pitch during his heyday with the Owls, I didn't fully understand what it all meant until Tuesday afternoon. Townsend should have been on that list along with the pitcher robbed of the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year Award. Whose spot Townsend should have taken is another debate altogether.

As for Ojala, he threw off of a mound for the first time on Dec. 4. Since it snowed that Friday, Ojala pitched at an indoor facility at Methodist, the site of his rehab. He threw four additional sessions last week with sound mechanics and a fluid stride. In other words he remains ahead of schedule, and barring a setback a return for the UH series at The Reck appears plausible. 

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Great update all around, MK. For many of us who had the pleasure of watching Wade T. perform at The Reck and in Omaha, it was his competitive fire and wearing his emotions on his sleeve style that made him THE favorite amongst favorites on those great 2002 - '04 Rice teams. BTW, if you hadn't heard the story, Niemann was not only a teammate, but his roomie for 3 years...and it was Wade who taught Jeff the knuckle curve.

Also, it's actually quite appropriate to reference Townsend when leading into an update on Mike Ojala, as "O" has much of Wade's competitive fire, and has on more than one occassion showed his emotions out there on the mound (e.g., in closing the game against UT last year by striking out the side in the 9th). Great to hear that he is still well ahead of schedule. I hadn't realized he was hoping to throw off a mound until January, so this is really, really encouraging. The big thing now is for him to gradually regain arm strength, command and the "feel" for his off-speed pitches. I've said it before and I'll say it again-- if "O" can work his way back to full strength by the stretch run and into the post-season, this team is going to be very, very difficult to beat. I can see him solidifying the back of the bullpen for the final two months of the regular season, as he regains his arm strength, then possibly move back into the starting rotation for the post-season, where his experience and competitiveness will be invaluable. Just five weeks to the start of Spring Practice!

Thanks for the good news on Ojala (and Townsend).

Your reports on the Owls are a blessing in disguise. You give us inside information not found in the local paper or news channels. Thank you for a job well done.
I like what I am hearing about Mike O, but worry about his recovery progression. He has that spirit and will be a team leader not only on the mound but in the dugout also. I hope he realizes where he was last year at the end of the season and does not try to make up for time lost. I think the coaches will control his time on the mound and by mid season he will back at full throttle. I'm excited about his return and look for a great season from the Owls.

James: Thank you. As for Ojala, I've been told that he will have a setback at some point - most every pitcher coming off TJ surgery will once they start throwing off a mound - and that how he responds will be key. The staff will not rush him back by any means, and even if he returns by the UH series Ojala will be slow tracked. - MK

Would Townsend be attractive to the Astros ? Can't imagine why he wouldn't be, as much help as they need.

Bigoldtackle: It would be wise of the Astros to at least give Townsend a look. But since we are talking about the Astros, who knows? - MK

When you and Kendall and those other guys do a "Warrior" list, Townsend should be at the top.
Locally or nationally.

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