Two months ago, the Michigan baseball team was in a tailspin.
With many of its top players getting drafted or entering the transfer portal, and prospects decommitting with former Michigan coach Erik Bakich leaving the program, the future seemed uncertain. But now, with an impactful bat returning, the outlook is beginning to brighten.
After entering his name in the transfer portal in June, catcher Jimmy Obertop has decided to withdraw his name from the portal and come back for his senior season.
Last year, Obertop served as a constant presence behind the plate and in the lineup, starting every game of the season. He also played an impactful role in the 2022 team’s postseason rally.
“(Obertop’s) the general out there,” Bakich said during the Louisville Regional. “He’s taken a much more vocal role with the pitching staff, … that’s his biggest evolution. …(He went from) a kid who’s just out there playing to now a kid who’s taking on that leadership role.”
Having a seasoned veteran like Obertop behind the plate is huge for the Wolverines. He stepped up enormously at the end of last season, providing strong and humble leadership and will continue to fill that role in 2023.
New head coach Tracy Smith understood the important role Obertop serves for the team and is excited to see that Obertop is returning with gusto.
“The one thing that Erik (Bakich) said to me right when I got the job is you’re gonna want to get Jimmy back.” Smith said. “He’s a key piece. … Jimmy let me know kind of his mindset … ‘if I don’t get what I want in the draft, I’m coming back with enthusiasm.’ ”
Obertop tried his luck in the draft and took stock of his options by entering the transfer portal as well. But in the end, Michigan and its academic prowess drew him back.
“The Michigan education,” Smith said. “It means something to him. … That’s what I think is so special about this place.”
In addition to his commitment to the University, Obertop is an asset because he is a player who displays skill in every facet of the game.
In addition to his constant impact behind the plate, he hit .278/.387/.504 in 2022, showing his high level offensive and defensive abilities. His success at the plate combined with his defense, leadership and ability to call a good game under pressure makes him an essential key to success.
The catcher is one of the most important positions in baseball. They call the shots and have the responsibility of making sure the pitching staff is performing at its best. Obertop showed last season he can do so.
The Wolverines have a long road ahead of them if they hope to match their success from last season, and strong-student leadership will be a must.
As Smith continues his endeavors to stabilize the baseball program after the chaos it experienced during its coaching search, he has Obertop, a player that he can rely on behind the plate and in the clubhouse.