Dream come true: Brooklyn’s Ottavino makes Major League debut

Adam Ottavino realized a lifelong dream Saturday afternoon.

He was on a Major League mound, pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, sharing the same dugout as slugger Albert Pujols and legendary manager Tony La Russa, doing what so many kids worldwide hope to one day. He took the loss in his debut, nationally televised by Fox. He went 5-2/3 innings, allowed four earned runs on five hits, walked six and struck out five, in a 5-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

“As soon as I knew what the Major League was, I always wanted to play there,” said Ottavino, who was 4-3 with a 4.17 ERA at Triple-A Memphis. “I feel blessed.”

Ottavino, 24, wasn’t the only one trying to adjust to the moment. His father, John, in the crowd with his mother, Eve, knew that the Cardinals’ 6-foot-5, 230-pound right-hander looked like his son, threw like his son, but he had a hard time being convinced it was really his son out there.

“I believe I will wake up in the morning, he will be 4 years old, and he’ll say let’s go and play catch,” he joked. “I don’t believe it happened.”

There were ups and down to his performance. Ottavino flashed a low-to-mid-90s fastball, but struggled with the command of his off-speed pitches. He worked out of jams in the third and fifth, but was tagged for three runs in the fourth inning. He fanned Alfonso Soriano on a slider in the dirt to end the fifth with a runner at third.

“I was a little nervous and a little excited,” Ottavino said. “Once I got out there, I didn’t feel like I was overwhelmed. I know it didn’t go exactly how I wanted. All in all, there are a lot of good things to take out of it.”

Ottavino took an odd route to the big leagues. The Park Slope, Brooklyn product attended Berkeley Carroll, a small private school in his neighborhood that doesn’t have its own field and travels to Breezy Point for home games.

“It’s a nice feather in your cap,” he said of becoming the proud baseball program’s first player to reach the big leagues. “You go to a small private school, this doesn’t seem like a realistic dream. It just shows hard work and talent over time, if you keep working, you can make it where you want to go.”

Berkeley Carroll coach Wally Paller said everybody involved with the school, from the baseball program on down, felt a “tremendous amount of pride” when hearing of the news. One talented incoming freshman even text-messaged Paller that he was looking forward to watching Ottavino pitch.

“It means something to players who have never put on our uniform,” Paller said.

Ottavino didn’t break out for the Lions until his junior year, when he shot up five inches. From the age of 12, he played high-level travel ball and joined Youth Service, one of the top summer programs in the area, in high school.

“The biggest [factor] is he won the genetic lottery,” John Attavino said. … “Because he played so many games and practiced so much, he could compete against bigger and stronger kids. When he finally grew, his skill was suddenly backed up by braun. That made a huge difference.”

His velocity increased, to 88-91 mph, by his senior year. He was drafted, by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 30th round of the 2003 draft, but opted to attend Northeastern instead. After three years there, the Cardinals took him in the first round (30th overall) in the 2006 draft.

The flame-throwing right-hander was grateful to be given the opportunity, but he doesn’t just want a cup of coffee. He would like a big gulp. Those close to him feel the same way. His father and Paller talked about trying to help him any way they could, whether it’s with encouraging words or pitching tips.

Ottavino hasn’t yet heard where or when he will be making his next start. He doesn’t plan on going anywhere, if, of course, it’s up to him.

“I couldn’t be happier with where I ended up,” he said. “I’m going to try and carve out my own little niche up here and make myself a guy that can stick around awhile and hopefully show the rest of my teammates I belong.”