PHOTOS: Photo on left courtesy Eve Ottavino. Photo on right - AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - On the August weekend that Major League Baseball allowed players to wear uniforms with their nicknames, Yankee reliver Adam Ottavino displayed his: "Brooklyn."
Ottavino grew up in a Park Slope brownstone on 11th Street, a pop fly from the ballfields of Prospect Park.
"I think it was a huge advantage to me in life," he says of his Brooklyn upbringing. "I just love that I had a lot of friends and felt like my childhood was really great."
As a free agent last winter, Ottavino jumped at the chance to sign with the Bombers, the team he rooted for as a child. He now has the lowest earned run average on the Yankees pitching staff.
"Part of an awesome team right now. We have a chance to do something special. Being able to be at home is something I haven't done in 15 years, so it's nice to be home again," Ottavino says.
Ottavino is now part of a small but stellar list of Yankees who grew up in the city, from Lou Gehrig (Manhattan) and the Scooter, Phil Rizzuto (Brooklyn), to Whitey Ford (Queens) and Willie Randolph (Brooklyn).
And Ottavino is Brooklyn through and through. Growing up, he went to many games at Yankee Stadium, and even got a chance to meet some of his favorite players. He attended P.S. 39, where his mom just retired a teacher; Hudde Junior High School; and Berkeley Carroll High School.
The Cardinals drafted Ottavino in the first round out of Northeastern University. He spent a year in St. Louis, and six seasons with the Colorado Rockies, before signing a three-year deal with the Yanks.
His parents still live in Park Slope. And when his mother can't get to the Stadium, she watches the team - and her son - on TV.
"When I watch him pitch, I watch every ball he throws. It's like I can almost see the wheels turning, thinking about everything he's going to do," Eve Ottavino says.
When Ottavino comes back to the old neighborhood, he's sure to stop at two places, his favorite shop and pizzeria. That would be Smiling Pizza and Le Bagel Delight on 7th Avenue. But he says a lot has changed here.
"Now, there's places like South Slope. That definitely was not a thing when I was a kid," Ottavino says.
Ottavino looked at Brooklyn properties, hoping to move his wife and children here after he signed with the Yankees, but he could not find a place with the space he wanted.
"We got priced out. So everything really went up 500 percent since I was a kid. So we decided to move out of the city. But that was a little disappointing," says Ottavino.
But no matter where Ottavino plants himself, his roots will always be in Brooklyn.