10/11/2013 12:22 PM -
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen have announced their first position player signing for the 2014 season as Central Michigan University catcher Alec Ornelas will take the field at Oil City Stadium next summer.
Ornelas is making a return to the Midwest Collegiate League after appearing in 32 games with the Southland Vikings in 2012.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “It was my first summer in a collegiate league and we had some good success there. It was a lot of fun and I met a lot of people.”
Ornelas was slated to spend the 2013 summer season in the Prospect League, but instead underwent hamate surgery on his left hand.
“I’m back to normal,” he said. “I did a lot of rehab and strength work, so now I’m back to normal playing fall ball.”
Ornelas is a graduate of Lincoln Way East High School and makes his home in Mokena, Ill. He saw action in 37 games for the Chippewas in 2013.
Ornelas will have the familiar duty of catching his Central Michigan teammate Jimmy McNamara, who will be back for his second summer in the MCL after an All-Star 2013 campaign.
“It will be great,” Ornelas said. “He’s a lot of fun. He’s a character.”
CMU coach Steve Jaksa described Ornelas as a “catch-and-throw guy.” Jaksa is hoping that he will improve his offensive consistency this season.
“As he progresses here, we’re looking for him to take the next step within himself as far as leadership qualities behind the plate and continue to work on those. Right now, he receives the ball well; I think consistency is the biggest thing that he would tell you he needs to work on in terms of blocking and hitting.”
The 2013 Oilmen also featured a pair of Central Michigan players as McNamara was joined by infielder Joe Houlihan.
“I think part of it is just the comfort,” Jaksa said. “Our guys will fit in. It’s more just them being comfortable and knowing somebody going in. When they get there, they might stay really close, but they’re also going to branch out to other guys on the team, and I think that’s really healthy and really good as far as maturing as a person.”
Before entering the college ranks, Ornelas posted strong numbers during his career at Lincoln Way East. As a senior, he hit .358, accumulated a .405 on-base percentage and drove in 33 runs. He was also named to the All-Southwest Suburban Conference team.
“I feel like I’m in good shape after surgery,” he said. “I feel stronger than I did before surgery. I’m excited to get the spring season going and win some ball games.”
Photo courtesy of CMU Athletics