Former Verona athlete Ben Rortvedt is catching on in the minors

September 6, 2018
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Catcher Ben Rortvedt is batting .262 with five home runs and 43 RBIs this season in Class A. He's also thrown out 37 percent of baserunners.

Ben Rortvedt is beginning to make a name for himself in the world of professional baseball.

Even if some people aren’t quite sure what that name is.

“People struggle with it a lot,” Rortvedt said. “They’ll say Rortvelt. I’ve even heard a Roosevelt. That’s OK. I haven’t met any other Rortvedts, either.”

Minnesota Twins fans figure to have at least a couple more years to get the name straight before the former Verona athlete makes his way to the big leagues. Even though he has miles to go to realize that dream, Rortvedt made some progress in that direction this season.

Rortvedt, 20, took a step forward, beginning the season at low-Class A Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League and earning a promotion in June to advanced-A Fort Myers in the Florida State League. His combined numbers include a .262 batting average with five home runs and 43 RBIs.

The left-handed hitting catcher had his best game as a pro last week, hitting a grand slam and driving in six runs to lead Fort Myers to a big victory. On Sunday, the Miracle won the second half of the South Division and gained a spot in the playoffs, which began Tuesday night

“It feels real at this point,” Rortvedt said of his life in pro baseball. “It’s my second full season and I’m kind of waist-deep in the system now. I’m starting to get a real good feel for how the minor league baseball system works. I feel good. I love the players around me, like the system I’m in and I’m having fun.”

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Rortvedt was selected by the Twins in the second round of the 2016 amateur draft. In an abbreviated first season with two Rookie-level teams he hit .222 with no homers and 10 RBIs. He followed that up with a full season at Cedar Rapids last year, hitting .224 with four homers and 30 RBIs.

Rortvedt admits it was a significant adjustment going from playing in the Big Eight Conference to competing in professional baseball. But even as he struggled at times, he maintained faith in his abilities.

“Pro baseball is a little different animal than what I was used to,” Rortvedt said. “To be successful in the game you have to learn what kind of player you are and what it takes for you to be able to go out on the field every single day and perform.”

Although he was drafted primarily on the promise of his offensive skills, Rortvedt has spent much of his time focusing on developing his defense.

“Being a catcher in this day and age with all the analytics going on, defense is the most important part of my game,” said Rortvedt, who has thrown out 37 percent of baserunners this year. “It’s all about helping the pitching staff get through a game, receiving the baseball well, throwing runners out. That’s all more important than hitting.

“But me, being drafted somewhat with a better hitting tool than most catchers, I do hold myself to a high standard of hitting. If you’re going to hit at a high level as a catcher and you can also catch, you’re going to move up the ranks a lot faster. I understand that.”

Patrick Ebert, managing editor of Perfect Game, an organization devoted to scouting and developing amateur players, has followed Rortvedt’s career from early in his prep days. He was always bullish on his big league potential, based on his bat and arm strength.

“He’s becoming the player that we all knew he could be,” Ebert said. “His development as a hitter is the least surprising thing because that’s what he was known for. Going into his senior year of high school he could play with anybody in the nation. He could handle all types of pitching, he had the bat speed and he had a rocket for an arm.”

While he still has a ways to go, Rortvedt, who figures to compete for a spot in Class AA next year, can see his big league dream growing ever closer to becoming reality.

“It’s always there,” he said. “It’s written on the wall of every building we’re in here. You just go in every day trying to get better. You try not to think it’s so far-fetched, but every day get better and know it’s not untouchable. Everybody here has a shot and if you keep playing well things will pan out in the end.”

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