DAYTONA BEACH — Owen Holt took four classes at Alvin Community College in the spring of 2021.
General stuff – including music appreciation, speaking, a sports officiating course.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I learned a few rules about the libero in volleyball or how softball has a designated player and not a designated hitter.”
But at the same time, he was also enrolled in three virtual classes 1,800 miles from his native Houston and nearby Alvin, Texas.
Holt was enjoying his first year as an economics major and baseball pitcher at the Ivy League institution when COVID-19 shut down the country in March 2020. This ended Holt’s 2020 season, but the conference then canceled its 2021 campaign as well.
Instead of sitting down, Holt went over to Alvin. He enrolled in these four courses so he could join the school baseball team while continuing his education at Harvard online.
The move put him on the radar of Major League scouts. The Cincinnati Reds picked him in the 16th round of last year’s draft and assigned him to Daytona at the start of this season.
“He’s a creature and a half,” Tortugas catcher Hayden Jones said.
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Even before his double course load, Holt had a unique background.
He never really dreamed of going to an Ivy League school until the opportunities started to arise, and he had no intention of playing baseball in college.
At Lamar High School, he played on the football field as a quarterback. He also adapted to the school baseball team, mostly as a first or third baseman, and rarely pitched. His coaches wanted to protect his quarterback arm because he was getting drafted off the grid, and Lamar already had three future college pitchers.
“I just liked the quarterback dynamic of (being) the man,” Holt said. “You touch the ball every play, and winning and losing kind of comes down to you. I really liked this aspect and this leadership. It was really fun.”
Holt considered Rice, Yale, and Penn before deciding to go to Harvard. He played two years of football and only appeared on one game, holding an extra points try against Yale in 2018. The game was at Fenway Park.
Her mind started to wander in the spring of 2019.
The Harvard quarterback’s depth chart was stacked, and Holt watched some of his friends from the college baseball team get drafted.
He spoke with his former high school coach, who signed him up for a local summer ball league. Holt’s arm was already in good shape. Instead of a corner infielder like he was in high school, he became a full-time pitcher.
Over the summer, he contacted the Harvard baseball team to see how to fit into the team. A former Crimson team captain, who went to Lamar High School, vouched for Holt and his skill level.
He entered the program in January 2020 and earned a spot in the starting rotation. He pitched twice, with both clashes taking place on the road. He held Alabama scoreless for five innings in his first start before giving up seven runs to Ohio State in three innings in a game held at Stetson University.
“Then the COVID shutdown,” Holt said.
These two appearances were like a tease.
“It was like, ‘Hey, you might be good, but you’ve got a lot of work to do,'” he said.
Holt returned home and completed the semester online. He stayed in Texas for the fall as well.
“I just needed a way to do live beats or something,” he said.
He got that opportunity through fellow Lamar graduate, Ryan Farney. Farney was coaching at Alvin at the time and invited Holt to work there. Soon, Farney told Holt to think about studying and playing there the following spring.
“I was like, ‘Well, I’m about to get that degree from Harvard,'” Holt said.
Farney said he could do both.
Holt phoned a Harvard dean and the school’s NCAA intermediary.
“They were both like, ‘Yeah, I don’t see why not. There’s no rule that says you can’t,'” Holt said.
So that’s what he did. People jokingly questioned his sanity, but he didn’t beat any baseball with the Ivy League season still on hold.
Holt has a small apartment in Alvin. For a semester he woke up and tried to finish his work at Harvard before anything else. His team practiced at 2:30 every afternoon, and he accommodated his practice lifts and Alvin’s homework whenever he could. On days he wasn’t pitching, he would sometimes arrive late to games due to school commitments.
“Alvin was really good about it,” Holt said. “It was certainly a lot.”
None of his Alvin credits transferred to Havard. He only took them to stay eligible for the sport. But the semester was huge for his development in baseball. He pitched 57 innings and struck out 65 batters.
He switched to summer ball with the Williamsport Crosscutters of the MLB Draft League after the season. The Reds signed him in July.
Holt was sent to Daytona after spring training this year, and it didn’t take long for his teammates to find out about his story. His teammates criticize him a bit for being a guy from Harvard.
“He’ll make comments or start a conversation that’s over my head because it’s like a super smart conversation, and I just stay out of it,” said Jones, a free agent signed from the Reds after the draft. last year.
“But I’ll make sure to let him know, ‘Okay, we get it. You went to Harvard. With something scientifically smart, out of the box, it’s like, ‘All right, man, you can turn that down a bit.’ ”
Holt also wowed his teammates — and everyone else — on the court.
With a mix of fastball, changeover and slider, he assembles his best season ever, posting a 1.71 ERA in 17 relief appearances and solidifying towards the back of the bullpen. Tortugas relievers. He made three saves, including one last Sunday.
“He’s awesome,” Jones said. “In a tight situation at the end of a game, he’s the guy you want to come in. He can handle himself and not much is going to bother him.”
Holt feels like he learned just by watching the mechanics and approaches of other Daytona pitchers. He’s still a relatively new full-time pitcher. His first college debut came just two years ago. It was the same for his fights against Ohio State in DeLand, which he has not forgotten.
Holt hasn’t forgotten about college yet, either.
He still has a semester left.