Otis Statum heard the noise. He paid close attention to his slump at the plate and how the redshirt sophomore was itching for his first career home run with the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Statum launched the negativity away with his first collegiate homer on March 1 that sent the ball over the batter’s eye in center field. His solo shot led Nevada to an 8-1 win over Washington State on March 1.
“It felt really good to see the ball leave the barrel,” Statum chuckled. “I got the pitch I wanted and I tried to square it up, the rest took off from there I guess.”
The second-year outfielder didn’t have time to collect his thoughts, teammates and coaches bombarded him when he crossed home plate. Third baseman and fellow teammate Josh Zamora congratulated him with a classic bear-hug.
“That was awesome to see, I’m so happy for him,” Zamora said post-game. “We know how important Otis is to the team. Seeing that big, goofy smile on his face was something truly special.”
Statum saw the dugout explode and gather around the batter’s box, awaiting his arrival at home plate.
“It was great to see all the guys there waiting for me,” he said post-game. “It shows how far this team has come and how much we’ve bonded throughout this journey together.”
After an injury-plagued freshman season, Statum’s bounce-back season is helping the Pack stay above .500 with a 14-13 record. Head coach T.J. Bruce has slotted the 6’2″ outfielder in both corner outfield spots this year.
“Otis has done such a great job of handling adversity and he’s helping just grinding out wins for this team,” Bruce said. “I’ve been impressed with how he’s worked so far.”
Statum solidified himself as a major student-athlete during his three years at Bishop O’Dowd High School, located in Oakland. He lettered all three seasons in baseball and was named a member of the National Society for High School Scholars.
He is majoring in kinesiology at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Statum made an even bigger impact on the field, and the pros took notice. The Cincinnati Reds selected him in the 39th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He batted .319 with five homers and 19 RBIs in his senior season.
Statum signed on with Nevada to further his development on the diamond and in the classroom. He and shortstop Jaylon McLaughlin headlined the Wolf Pack’s 2017 recruits.
“It’s been great, I’m pretty comfortable with where I’m at,” he added. “I just bought in with what the program’s doing here and it’s going well.”
What followed during Statum’s freshman season is the same motivation he uses every game. His batting average slumped to .122 in 25 games and redshirted his sophomore year after undergoing shoulder surgery before the start of last season.
“It was a lot of mental things I had to go through,” Statum said. “But I just told myself to play the game and play hard and whatever happens, happens. I use those struggles to fuel me and it helped me become a better player and teammate.”
Statum’s good eye and approach at the plate has earned him more playing time. He can be relied upon in both outfield positions as the year progresses.
“He’s the kind of guy we need when we go further into the season,” Bruce said. “He’s solid on both sides of the field and as a team we can rely on him at any point in the game.”
Free of any noise, distractions and injuries, Statum’s home run isn’t the only highlight he will produce when his collegiate career is finished.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.