ARLINGTON -- Mike Olt went through a lot in his first five Major League games.
Olt singled off of former Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson in his first Major League at-bat, and he experienced the agony of a walk-off defeat and the thrill of a walk-off win. Before Olt, the Rangers' third-best prospect according to MLB.com, got a chance to do any of that, he had to put up with his name being tossed around in trade speculation leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31.
"He's the player of the future," Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan said. "I think [manager] Ron [Washington] will work him in like he does so many of the young guys when they come up. Just throw him in there and pick his spots and use him as a swing guy to give other players an opportunity to get a day off. So I think we'll see him move around a lot."
That's high praise for someone who has only played seven games in the Majors.
"That's a huge honor, especially coming from Nolan Ryan," Olt said. "The way he runs this organization, it's special to be a part of. Having him say something like that is cool. It makes me want to work harder."
Before Olt was called up earlier this month, he was hitting .288 with 28 homers, 82 RBIs and a .579 slugging percentage in 95 games with Double-A Frisco. He's been with the Rangers for more than two weeks and started only six games, marking the first time in his professional career he is not an everyday player. In seven games, Olt is batting .267 with four RBIs.
"On this team, everyone has a role," Olt said. "To be a good teammate and a good player, I have to accept this role. I know my role and, in my head, I know exactly what I have to do."
Primarily a third baseman, Olt has started only one game there for the Rangers, when they faced the Royals on Aug. 5. With the game tied at 6-6 in the ninth inning, Olt was tagged out at home after Elvis Andrus missed a suicide squeeze bunt attempt. In the 10th, Olt struck out swinging with the bases loaded to end the inning. In the bottom half of the 10th, Olt threw wide of Ian Kinsler at second base trying to force out Salvador Perez as Eric Hosmer scored the game-winning run. The Rangers lost, 7-6.
"I couldn't believe what had just happened," Olt said. "That's just going to be another bump. Being a rookie, you have to deal with a lot of adversity. I had never made a play like that in my life, but [my teammates] were right there for me. It's going to happen again. That's baseball."
Olt went a long ways to redeeming himself the following weekend. With men on first and second base, the Rangers and Tigers were tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Washington called on Olt to pinch-hit for Mitch Moreland, and he came through. Olt poked a 2-2 curveball, the ninth pitch of the at-bat, through the left side of the infield, as Nelson Cruz crossed the plate and gave the 23-year-old his first career walk-off hit.
"For a young kid, he looked calm to me," Washington said after the win. "We're not looking at him like he's a rookie. He's here because he can play. When an opportunity presents itself, I'm not afraid to put him in those situations."
"It was awesome. It's something I'll never forget," Olt said. "The whole at-bat, I was just trying to stay short and within myself. I was trying to hit something hard on the ground."
After hitting .475 over four years at Brandford (Conn.) High School, and leading the baseball team to a state title in 2006, Olt left the University of Connecticut as its all-time home runs leader, hitting 44 in three seasons. A little more than two years after the Rangers picked him with the No. 49 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, he's showing why they would not give him up for guys like Zack Grienke or Cole Hamels before this year's Trade Deadline.
Is there a part of Olt that wants to prove that the Rangers made the right decision in not trading him?
"I guess you do, but once you start thinking like that, you're not going to do well," Olt said. "I'm not going to try to go out there to prove anything. I'm just going to try to go out there and be myself. Hopefully I'm able to contribute to the team like they think I can."