PCHS baseball: Hard work pays off for Ryan Stokes
As a junior at Wasatch High School, Ryan Stokes was cut from the baseball team.
But he didn’t throw in the towel. With his dream of playing collegiate baseball at a crossroads, the only thing he could do was work harder.
"Initially, I thought the dream might have passed me by, but I know Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team, and I think he went on to do pretty decent," he said. "That’s what motivated me to come up to Park City and bust my butt."
That’s exactly what he did as a senior and starting second baseman on this year’s Park City High School baseball team. Stokes came to Park City’s program as someone who would have to earn playing time.
He flashed leather at second, worked his way up from hitting last in the lineup, and showcased his blazing speed on the base paths. He was one of only four players to play all 26 games this year. All of that led to Stokes’ being offered a letter of intent to play at the Oregon Institute of Technology, also known as Oregon Tech, in Klamath Falls, Ore.
Park City head coach Lou Green said missing out on a crucial part of his high school career was difficult for Stokes. Prior to the season, he was competing with younger players for a chance to even play, let alone be the everyday starter that he became.
"A super quiet, super coachable kid," Green said. "But he has a very, very large competitive streak in him. That’s what you look for in baseball players because it is a game of failure. As he matures and plays the game more, he’ll get stronger; I think he’ll have a very successful career. He’s one of the hardest workers in the program since I’ve been there."
That included finishing first in the team’s conditioning drills, being the first guy to the park and the last guy to leave, Green said.
"I don’t think there was a game we played all year long where his uniform wasn’t brown with dirt from head to toe," he said. "He is that guy, that old-school type of infielder. That’s what I love as a coach; he fit a mold as perfect as any guy could have.
"It would have been tough to bring in a senior the way he came in and get him playing, but he works so hard, and he fit our program so well. He made it impossible for us to keep him out of the lineup."
Mike Stokes, Ryan’s father and an assistant on Green’s staff, played a couple years of junior college baseball before calling it quits. He said he continues to regret the decision to hang up the spikes prematurely, and he was glad to see his son so determined to stay on course after dealing with heartbreak.
"It really hurt him a lot," the elder Stokes said. "I think he really put his nose to the grind this year and wanted to prove a point and say, ‘Hey, you made a mistake.’"
Like Ryan, Mike thought the chances of playing baseball at the next level had vanished during his junior year at Wasatch.
"I thought that dream was kind of starting to fade away," he said. "I wanted him to have that experience at the high school baseball level. I remember everything about high school baseball. The college baseball thing is just something on top. It was just the icing on the cake. I can’t thank Lou enough for giving him the chance."
Ryan Stokes chose Oregon Tech, a NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Division-II school, due to its prominence in engineering, in which he plans to major.
"They sold me pretty well on that," he said. "The head coach there was willing to give me a letter of intent to have signed; he signed and I signed it and that was it."
Green said Stokes’ quiet but unwavering demeanor will help him succeed at the next level.
"You really have to have your ducks in a row to come back after a year off and get offered to play college ball," he said. "There are kids who played for 15 years in a row who don’t get a chance. He’s got a very professional approach to practice and the game.
"There aren’t many clowns at the college level and you have to have it together, and Ryan does."
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The artist from Vineyard who created the mural traveled to Park City again last weekend to repair it, tweak the image and leave a message for the community on the street.