DETROIT -- Colby Bortles and his older brother, Blake, both like the long ball. They just go for the home run in different sports.That was not the case yet when they were growing up in central Florida, playing Wiffle ball inside on rainy days.:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::"Played all
DETROIT -- Colby Bortles and his older brother, Blake, both like the long ball. They just go for the home run in different sports.
That was not the case yet when they were growing up in central Florida, playing Wiffle ball inside on rainy days.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
"Played all the time," Colby said. "Played every game you could think of. We played baseball inside. We broke a lot of stuff. My mom wasn't happy about it."
They veered off to different sports along the way, Blake turning to football and starring at Central Florida, Colby to baseball at Ole Miss. With the Tigers' selection of Colby Bortles in the 22nd round of Wednesday's MLB Draft, they're both now officially professional athletes.
Though they're separated by three years in age and different sports, it doesn't take long to realize how close the brothers are. After Blake went to the Jacksonville Jaguars as the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, he told media in Orlando, Fla., that he was going to put part of his signing bonus toward Colby's tuition. With limited scholarships available, very few college baseball players get a full ride.
Blake would make the trip whenever Ole Miss traveled to Gainesville, Fla., to play against the Gators, Colby said, and he'd try to make a trip to Oxford, Miss., every year. While the academic schedule didn't allow Colby much opportunity to get to Jacksonville, he tried to make the trip to Nashville, Tenn., each time the Jaguars faced the Titans.
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Blake's Twitter feed is flooded with retweets of the Ole Miss baseball program highlighting Colby's accomplishments.
Colby's career gave him a lot of feats to tweet. After being named senior co-captain at Ole Miss and a preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball, he led the Rebels with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs to go with a .269 batting average and .482 slugging percentage. He earned second team All-SEC honors.
With the Tigers looking for offensive punch to add to their system and always scouring the SEC for talent, Bortles -- a Home Run Derby contestant at last year's College World Series -- fit the profile. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, he has a quarterback's frame, making him a big third baseman and bigger slugger, but he spent last summer trying to gain agility, working out with his brother a few times when he was back in Florida.
"I lost a lot of weight in the summer and tried to be a quicker, more agile third baseman, having the consistency with my overall game, offense and defense," he said. "That was the goal, more consistent contact. The goal was to not strike out as much. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't."
Mike Bianco, the longtime head coach at Ole Miss, called Bortles "a third baseman in a tight end's body" whose solid hands provided a strength at the hot corner and whose power potential was bigger than his senior numbers. Bianco called Bortles a leader by example whose family could be proud of having two professional athletes who are examples on and off the field.
Bortles had a list of teams with potential interest, but the Tigers weren't one of them. He did not realize that Justin Henry, a former Tigers farmhand and Ole Miss product, had been tracking him during the season. Soon after his name popped up on MLB.com's Draft Tracker, Bortles received a call from Henry.
"It's an exciting opportunity," Bortles said. "I'm looking forward to get going and get started playing for a great organization."
Soon after the Tigers called, Bortles received a text from his brother. Though the Jaguars have a mandatory minicamp this week, he was following the Draft online.
"He texted me and said he was going to call me," Colby said. "He was pumped for me and happy and he was watching the Draft. It was a long 20 rounds, and he was glad it was over."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.