The 6’4 Pennsylvania native came to Alabama with hopes of walking on the baseball team last year. That didn’t happen, however he did get himself on Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard’s radar.
Fortunately for Oczypok, that paid off when Gaspard heard of an opening on a summer league team in Illinois last summer. He passed along Oczypok’s name, and from there Oczypok’s dream of playing for the Crimson Tide that had seemed slightly out of reach after a year of not making the team started to slowly become a reality.
After a successful summer, Oczypok was given another look when he returned to campus. This time, Coach Gaspard made the decision to give Oczypok a spot on the Crimson Tide Roster.
“I was very blessed by Coach Gaspard. I wanted to be on this team. In the fall they really just gave me a shot and I took advantage of it, ” said Oczypok.
On Friday night, Coach Gaspard knew that he made the right decision in fall.
“The one thing with Mike is all the stuff he’s been through to get to the spot he is in today. He is an ultra-confident guy; he’s been through a lot and the team is very confident in him. His first start was very similar to today; he went out there and threw six/seven innings and he pitched well. He makes pitches and the way we defend, especially on the infield, makes him the perfect guy for our team,” said Gaspard.
That quote came just moments after a heart-breaking loss to LSU that eliminated the Crimson Tide from the SEC Tournament.
Despite the loss, Oczypok pitched a fantastic game for the Crimson Tide, throwing 120 pitches for nearly a complete game. Which makes it nearly impossible to fathom that last year at this time, Oczypok didn’t even have a roster spot for Alabama.
On Friday night, he pitched like a veteran against one of the top teams in the entire country, proving that he really has the ability to compete with the best.
“You can’t say enough about what kind of job Mike did today. He came in, went out there and kept the ball in the zone and just threw a ton of strikes and let the defense work for him. It’s a big park, as a pitcher you have to pound the strike zone. He did a great job and just got burned by one pitch,” said catcher Brett Booth in regards to his performance and having Oczypok on the team heading into the NCAA Tournament.
While with baseball anything can happen, for Oczypok, one thing is for certain: he has stolen a place in the heart of the Alabama fan base as he continues to prove that giving up just isn’t something that he does.