When the Ottawa Titans step onto the field for their first preseason tomorrow evening against the Quebec Capitales, they won’t be completely devoid of familiarity. Starting pitcher, Zac Westcott previously spent time with the Ottawa Champions in 2019, and has returned to the city for the 2022 season.
Westcott found his way to Ottawa after being released by the Milwaukee Milkmen in the American Association, but signed with the Champs in the second half of the season. In eight starts, the current Titans’ ace had an ERA of just 3.54 through 53 and a third innings pitched. He pitched exceptionally well with the Champions, but was forced to search for a new team, as the Champs couldn’t come to an agreement to move to the Frontier League, proceeding to fold.
“Whenever you get told that you don’t have a job, it’s a stressful environment,” Westcott said. “At the same time, it’s a long offseason, so you have enough time to talk to a bunch of people. Most people in independent baseball don’t have advisors or agents, so it’s on you to be reaching out to teams.”
Westcott didn’t play in 2020 thanks to the pandemic, but in 2021, he returned to the field, playing for both the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League, who have since folded, and the Lexington Legends of the Atlantic League. The 30-year-old is a veteran in independent league baseball, but he brought his talents back to Ottawa, when he signed with the Titans at the end of March.
“I loved my time here,” said Westcott. “The fans were awesome, the city was awesome. Ottawa kinda played a cool part in my personal baseball journey. After I was released from the Milwaukee Milkmen, I was out of a job for about three weeks, and Ottawa was the first team to call and give me a shot.”
“I have played with Bobby Brown before, and he was a familiar face. It was a familiar place, but it was a culmination of a lot of things.”
If independent baseball guarantees one thing, it’s that nothing is ever guaranteed. Roster turnover is high, and the average career is short, but none of that is new to Westcott.
“This is my eighth season in indy ball,” he said. “There are not many things that will pop out that are new experiences, but you get more comfortable with the whole process. I remember early in my career, you would be unsigned into the new year, and I would be having anxiety at home not knowing where I’m going to play. Now, it’s just like they will get to it when they get to it.”
His return to Ottawa might not be with the same organization, or wearing the same uniforms that he did when he was last in the city, but still, there is some familiarity. In fact, Westcott seems to prefer an element of the unknown being thrown his way.
“I think it’s a perfect balance, actually,” he said. “I don’t think you ever want to be too comfortable where you’re at, and I think getting out of your comfort zone is going to help you a lot. It is nice to come in and already know my way around the stadium, around the city a little bit. There are still some familiar faces around the organization.”
Earlier in spring training, Brown mentioned that he believes his pitching staff will throw a lot of strikes, keeping hitters on their toes, and forcing them into difficult counts. Westcott echoed that sentiment, saying that it’s important to him, and the rest of the staff, to throw good pitches in the zone.
“Everything I have seen has been great,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of experience in the pitching staff, which is something that most teams I have been on have used in other areas. It’s nice to have guys who know what they are doing, guys who are going about their business the right way, and they know what they need to do to be ready to go.”
“I think from spring training so far, we have seen a lot of strike-throwers. That’s how I go about my business. No one likes to sit there and see these long games, so it’s nice to see guys competing in the zone. We’ve got a good defence behind us too, so execute our pitches in the zone and let the guys in the field work.”
Right now, the plan is for Westcott to start tomorrow night in Quebec for the preseason games, before starting the Titans’ opening day game against the Joliet Slammers in Illinois.
“So much excitement,” said Westcott. “Tomorrow is going to be fun. I’ve got a couple of buddies playing with Quebec, and it will be my first time since getting here in spring training to face an outside opponent. It’s always fun to put the jersey on and see a different jersey on the other side.”
As for season goals for the ace, nothing too serious or complicated. He wants to stay healthy, and take the mound every five days, allowing his pitches to do the work.
“I typically only have one goal every season; lead the league in innings pitched,” he said. “I think if I’m top five in innings, I’m doing something right. Other things will fall into place.”
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