Futures is homecoming for Van Ostrand

Canada representative played college ball at two area schools

Van Ostrand is hitting .300 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 64 games for Lexington. (John M. Setzler Jr.)

By Mark Shugar / MLB.com | July 8, 2007 12:19 PM

SAN FRANCISCO - Lexington Legends outfielder James Van Ostrand was a late addition to the World Team roster for the 2007 XM Satellite Radio Futures Game, but it doesn't mean he has to enjoy his All-Star experience alone.

In addition to his parents and brother in the stands, Van Ostrand is seeing friends he made while attending Allan Hancock College in Santa Barbara and Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.

"I had a lot of people who were able to come across tickets in various ways," he said, "so I should be able to have a little bit of a cheering section, and I got to see a couple of friends last night.

"It's just awesome to be back here for something like this."

Van Ostrand made stops at both colleges en route to being drafted by the Astros in the eighth round in 2006. He was drafted out of high school by the Mets in the 29th round (855th overall) in 2003, but didn't sign.

"It's been an interesting trip for sure," Van Ostrand said. "Coming from high school, to junior college, to Cal Poly, and then signing and being able to play on a stage like this. You definitely sit back, look around and enjoy it."

It was college ball that brought Vancouver, British Columbia, native to California, where he got his first taste of AT&T Park as a fan.

"It's unbelievable," Van Ostrand said. "I've been to a couple of games here and it's definitely a bit of a different view from the field than from the stands. I'm just enjoying this whole thing."

Van Ostrand was planning to enjoy his Futures Game nod with a former Cal Poly teammate, left-hander Garrett Olson, but the Orioles prospect was called up to pitch for Baltimore on July 4.

"I actually talked to him two days before he got called up," Van Ostrand said. "He was telling me it was 50-50 if he was going to make his next start.

"It's interesting from my perspective -- I wanted to see one of my good buddies here but what he's doing now is awesome, and he's earned it every step of the way. It's been fun to watch him on the highlights."

But while Van Ostrand may not have a former teammate in the World Team dugout, he does have fellow countrymen to share the experience.

"[High Desert Mavericks outfielder] Michael Saunders played in the [British Columbia Premier Baseball League], the same league I grew up playing in," Van Ostrand said. "I actually grew up watching him play when he was in high school playing against my younger brother. So it's cool to meet him and [Louisville Bats first baseman] Joey Votto, another Canadian guy, along with all these other guys."

The feeling is mutual for Saunders, who had a vague recollection of Van Ostrand when perusing the World Team roster for the Futures Game.

"I remembered the name," Saunders said. "I figured it was either him or a younger brother, something along those lines. It's great seeing him out here, another Canadian. It's a pride thing. Whether you're representing your county playing for Team Canada or the World Team, it's a great experience."

Van Ostrand has made quite a name for himself so far this season with the Legends. He's hitting .300 with 21 extra-base hits, including eight home runs.

The 22-year-old has played four positions for the Legends and is batting .364 with runners in scoring position, which helps explain his 44 RBIs on the season.

"I'm really working on getting quality at-bats," he said. "Early in the game, you may take a few more pitches to see what the starter's got to help you out in those late-game situations when the ballgame can be on the line."

His 2007 campaign has been a vast improvement over his pro debut with Class A Short-Season Tri-City, where he hit .215 with 13 RBIs in 40 games for the ValleyCats.

Van Ostrand credits a more patient approach to the game for his success this season.

"I think it took understanding what it takes on a day-to-day basis," he said. "I've worked on having more consistent at-bats day in and day out, and I'm working on being more confident and comfortable when I'm up there at the plate. Every day I'm learning more and more, and I'm just trying to do the best I can."

And the Futures Game is a perfect reminder of what could be if he continues to improve when he returns to Lexington.

"This is what you're shooting for and it's awesome to be able to experience it for a day," Van Ostrand said. "It kind of reminds you what you're putting all the work in for and where you're heading to."

Mark Shugar is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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