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In the Gaps: Dillon And Kody Ortman

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March 2, 2012

It was a crisp fall afternoon in October 2011. There was a light breeze in the air, and it was a perfect day for baseball. The Auburn Tigers were in the midst of the Fall World Series, a set of intra-squad practice games that close out the fall practice season, and Kody Ortman was at the plate.

In what should have been a normal at bat for the junior college transfer from Huntsville, Ala., it wasn't long before laughter and playful jeering erupted from the few normally quiet onlookers in the stands - only it was directed more at Dillon Ortman than at Kody.

"You just got pitched around by your little brother!"

The voice rang loud and clear, and Kody loved every second of his trot down the first base line.

"I don't know if he was doing it to set up a force or if he was just scared of me, but he didn't throw anything anywhere close to me," Kody said with a grin. "He threw four pitches way out, and I took my base and laughed. I definitely picked on him a little bit after that. I thought he was scared of me and didn't want to pitch to me."

After a year of having Auburn all to himself, Dillon, the younger of the two brothers, was reminded that some things - like his older brother's 17 month advantage - will never change.

Kody and Dillon grew up playing baseball together and have been a duo on the field for as long as they can remember. Playing mostly catcher growing up, Kody was Dillon's catcher throughout their early careers on the diamond.

"He's always caught me from kindergarten up," Dillon said. "That's kind of the thing you dream of when you're little kids, playing with your brother at a college like Auburn. In high school, just to hear someone say `The battery is Ortman to Ortman,' it was pretty cool."

After graduating from Grissom High School in 2009, Kody attended Northwest Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals, Ala., where he finished his JUCO career with 15 home runs and 84 RBIs, as well as hit .361 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs as a sophomore. <br clear="left"/>

Posted Image<br/> "I thought I would have opportunities to play at the Division I level (after high school), and then toward the end of the recruiting process, everything kind of just fell through," Kody said. "So toward the end, my decision was to go to Northwest Shoals and get in right away and play and get the experience."The decision turned out to be a beneficial one for Kody in ways off the field, as well.

"Probably the biggest part was just (learning) how to manage time with school and baseball," Kody said. "A lot of guys struggle, especially when they come to a big school their first year managing their time well. A lot of guys look down on JUCO, but that's one of the biggest things that it helps you with is learning how to balance the school work and playing on the road."

While Kody was in his last year at Northwest Shoals, Dillon was making those same adjustments at Auburn. After graduating in 2010, Dillon signed with the Tigers and took a spot on the pitching staff.

Having spent one year apart for the first time in their baseball careers, Dillon is happy to have Kody back on the team with him again.

"Well it's a lot of fun this year because we had that year break from high school," Dillon said. "We played together in high school, which was a lot of fun and everything, but him coming back after junior college, it's a lot more fun. It kind of makes me play better."One of the biggest adjustments the pair faced after Kody joined Dillon on the Plains was in Dillon having a year's worth of experience and being the one Kody went to for advice.

"He asks me questions now that I feel good answering," Dillon said. "I was always asking him questions and stuff before, but now there are certain questions he asks me questions and I kind of enjoy answering them."

It's a special season for the pair in more ways than one. The Ortmans' father, Russ, walked on to the Auburn baseball team as a student in 1984. Kody and Dillon say that makes it even more special to get to play together now.

"It's been a great experience for him, too, and he's loved every minute of it having two of his sons on the team," Dillon said. "Our mom's down here instead of splitting time going to Kody's games and my games. Now she can see a lot more of our games."

"It's just been awesome," Kody added. "I know it's a huge deal to him, and he's right now the happiest guy in the world with both of us being here, and it means a lot to him. It means a lot to us."

Just 10 games into the season, the Ortman brothers are looking forward to watching each other's continued success throughout 2012 and beyond. Kody currently leads the team in home runs, while Dillon has yet to allow an earned run in three relief appearances.

No matter what the rest of the season has in store, Kody and Dillon are looking forward to the good, the bad and everything in between and are happy to face it all together again.

"It's been a lot of fun," Kody said. "It's been a learning experience for Dillon to have already been here a year, and he's showing me stuff that I need to know and little things that definitely would help knowing that he's been here already. It's always been a dream to be here and especially with him, it couldn't get any better than that."

by Mae Margeret Davis, Auburn Media Relations

Follow Auburn baseball on twitter at twitter.com/AUTigerBaseball.

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Never to conquer, ever to yield.