Former Orioles closer Gregg Olson was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in a virtual ceremony June 26, only a few months after being diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer. His induction marks the first time a baseball player from Auburn University has been recognized with the honor.
Olson was inducted alongside 13 others, including longtime Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton (Tennessee).
“It kind of hit me when I was sitting there and I got off the phone. I run through it. It’s millions of players at the college level that have ever played, and I get to be in that Hall of Fame,” Olson said on Glenn Clark Radio June 28. “The numbers are staggering, and it’s a huge honor.”
The 54-year-old said he still finds himself reviewing his accomplishments and questions if he is truly worthy of such an honor. But Olson’s numbers certainly indicate that he does deserve such recognition.
Olson played baseball for the Tigers from 1986-1988, posting a 25-7 record and 3.03 ERA in 97 appearances, mostly in relief (229.0 innings total). In 1987, Olson led the NCAA with a 1.26 ERA in 42 appearances. One year later, he led the SEC with a 2.00 ERA in 36 appearances.
“For this to come through the [Auburn] community, it was a lot of people reaching out and a lot of nice things being said,” Olson said of the Hall of Fame honor.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound right-handed pitcher was drafted No. 4 overall by the Orioles in the 1988 MLB Draft to conclude his career at Auburn.
The Nebraska native soon became the first reliever to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1989 after posting a 1.69 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 90 strikeouts across 85.0 innings. Olson was recognized as the Most Valuable Oriole that same year. Olson was named an American League All-Star again in 1990, posting a 2.42 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 74 strikeouts across 74.1 innings.
Throughout his six seasons spent with Baltimore, Olson produced 160 saves, still the club record to this day. Olson’s solid level of play also earned him a spot in the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2008.
For the last eight years of his professional baseball career, Olson played for an additional eight teams — the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals (twice), Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Olson completed his big-league career with a 3.46 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 217 saves and 588 strikeouts across 672.0 innings and 622 appearances. Reflecting on his baseball career, Olson is shocked yet appreciative to be recognized with such an honor.
“I think I’d been on the ballot for a couple years and had seen what was written and said. I was just like, ‘I’m never getting in with the way that’s worded,'” Olson said. “But it ended up being good enough, and I didn’t know that it was coming this year. I really didn’t. It’s kind of one of those moments where you’re in a shocking development. I’m speechless.”
Olson announced his prostate cancer diagnosis in March and underwent a radical prostatectomy in April. He feels grateful for the position he is in today and encourages all individuals to see their doctor to ensure that nothing is wrong, and if there is something wrong, to catch it early. Olson’s PSA level was zero at a recent follow-up appointment.
Now, the former pitcher is looking forward to finishing his master’s degree at his alma mater and teaching his second class at Auburn this fall.
“Go get checked up. It takes an hour a year to go get a physical, go get blood work, go get checked on,” Olson urged listeners. “After I had my prostate removed, I talked to the surgeon that did it, and he said that the cancer had already gotten out. If I had postponed the decision or waited and not gotten tested, by months, we’re having a whole different conversation.”
To hear more from Olson, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles