On a wet and gray afternoon on Monday, July 17th, Corey Oswalt was the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Binghamton Baseball Boosters. He chatted with the members for approximately twenty minutes as the group gathered under the right field party deck at NYSEG Stadium, which shielded them from the rain that eventually cancelled the doubleheader scheduled that evening.
Oswalt was drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 amateur draft out of Madison High School in San Diego, where he starred as a shortstop. During his senior year he pitched about 20 innings so that he could show his potential as a pitcher and increase his prospects of being a high draft pick. Though he had only that limited experience as a pitcher, the Mets saw promise in his arm strength. After drafting him, the Mets converted Oswalt to a full-time pitcher and assigned him to the Kingsport Mets, a short-season rookie team in the Appalachian League. Oswalt got off to a rocky professional start, compiling an 8.15 E.R.A. while pitching 35 innings. Since that rocky start, however, Oswalt’s rise through the minors has been steadfast and he has found success at such stops at Brooklyn, Savannah, and St. Lucie. Last fall Oswalt showed he was ready for Double-A baseball by having an impressive Arizona Fall League debut, where he went 4-1 with a 3.31 E.R.A.
Oswalt is enjoying a breakout year with the Rumble Ponies, going 7-3 with a superlative 2.31 E.R.A. He has teamed with PJ Conlon and Chris Flexen to form a formidable starting rotation for the Ponies. Oswalt and Conlon were both selected to the pitching staff of the Eastern Division for the Eastern League All Star game and Oswalt threw a shutout inning as the starter.
Regarding his time as a shortstop before he became a professional, Oswalt was objective. “I miss playing shortstop today, I liked being part of the action for every game, every play. But my baseball advisor thought I could enhance my draft position by also pitching a little during my senior year, as my arm strength has always been my strongest asset as a baseball player.” Oswalt still likes to swing the bat and his two home runs this year show he still has some talent in the batter’s box.
“When I come up to hit I know the pitcher is probably going to throw me fastballs early in the count,” Oswalt explained to the boosters when he was asked about his success at the plate. “So I look for the fastball and am ready to put a good sing on it,” he concluded. Oswalt also takes a cerebral approach to the game when he is on the pitcher’s mound. “A lot of times I’ll decide on what to throw by reading the batter’s swing, he stated. “If I have a batter reaching for the outside breaking ball, I know I can follow up with an inside fastball.”
One of the biggest differences Oswalt has noticed from St. Lucie is that the hitters miss fewer mistakes in the Eastern League. Oswalt’s assessment of the batters in the Eastern League echoes the earlier comments of such former Binghamton players as David Roseboom, Logan Verrett, and Mike Fulmer, who warned of more sophisticated hitters at Double-A when they spoke with the boosters in prior seasons. Oswalt cautioned, “If you miss up in the zone in this league, the hitters will make you pay for it, whereas in Single-A they might only foul off a mistake.” Regarding the umpires in the league, Oswalt noted the hubris of umpires, as well as drawing laughs from his audience when he stated “All the umpires here think they should be in the big leagues!” Oswalt explained that the strike zone is narrower here, as pitches that are off the plate are not called strikes as much as they are in the lower levels of minor league ball.
When Oswalt has a few hours of spare time, he likes to check out the eating places of Binghamton and he is especially partial to visiting Wegman’s. “I love Wegman’s,” he exhorted when he asked about what he likes about Binghamton. Though an avid golfer, Oswalt has not taken advantage of any of the numerous golf courses in the area, as he prefers not to play during the season, shielding himself from an injury risk and preserving his energy.
On the mound Oswalt pitches off his fastball and relies on keeping the ball low in the zone; he is known more for his command than his strikeout artistry. In 81 innings this year, he has struck out 69 and only walked 26. His three best pitchers are his fastball, curve, and slider. Oswalt is looking forward to finishing the year in strong fashion and seeing the Rumble Ponies make the playoffs in their first year of existence.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the boosters gave Oswalt a round of applause and Gary Kaiser bid farewell to Oswalt by calling out, “See you in Citi Field.” If Oswalt continues to pitch as well as he has in the first half of the season, he will no doubt follow in the footsteps of such former guest speakers for the boosters as Michael Fulmer, Brandon Nimmo, Paul Sewald, and Logan Verrett.