Ryan Rua has heard it all before. He’s been too short, too skinny, his shoulders were too narrow, his feet were too small, his hands weren’t good, his bat wouldn’t play, he’s too old. He’s heard it. Whatever criticisms you want to lob his way, he’s prepared for them. They’ll be absorbed into his skin. Some guys learn to deflect the acetate, others ignore it completely, but a unique few absorb it. They let it sink into their fabric, and they willingly funnel the barbed words directly into a perpetually refilling fuel tank. Ryan Rua is one of those guys. There isn’t a method to the madness for this type of person, or more specifically, this type of player, and there are really only two outcomes. Either they absorb so much of the criticism it eventually eats them to the core and they’re unable to remain productive, or they find the sweet spot between the heat, and the actual fire.
Ryan grew up outside of Cleveland in Amherst, Ohio. An All-County guard for the basketball team, he was also a pitcher and obviously, an infielder for the baseball squad. A few colleges came calling, but he wanted to play early and often, so he chose to attend nearby Lake Erie College. Lake Erie had a baseball team, but it was hardly a powerhouse. They now have exactly one player who has been drafted by a major league baseball team…Ryan Rua. A 17th round pick in 2011, Rua left Lake Erie after his junior year to join the Rangers, a decision he told Sam Ameen of Northern Ohio’s News Herald was an easy one. “It wasn’t that difficult of a decision, I had full support of my family and the coaching staff as well. Everyone that knew me, knew my dream was to play professional baseball, so I think that made it easy.” Well then. The college shortstop spent the majority of the 2011 season with the Arizona Rookie League Rangers and took up residence at 3rd base, hitting .321/.395/.512. The 2012 season was spent with the Spokane Indians and included ample time at first, second, and third base. Ryan even made 7 starts at shortstop, all while hitting .293/.368/.432. But it wasn’t just the on-field results that were showing maturation. One of the things young ball players realize is that it isn’t just a matter of playing the games. It’s a lifestyle, not a job. Eat right, practice your trade relentlessly, stay fit, learn to love your teammates. These are all things that are learned and developed as a player makes his way through the system. Ryan was learning those things on a steep curve over his first two years.
In 2013 he joined the heralded herd of lofty-minded prospects headed to Hickory. Many of these kids were more highly touted than Ryan, and they were younger, and wealthier, and had enough press clippings to start a bonfire, but Ryan has given exactly zero shits about all of that. He’s been the steady hand, and he’s found a power stroke. Has he ever found a power stroke. A development he credits the Crawdads’ hitting coach Justin Mashore in helping to foster, Ryan leads the team, and has at times this season, led all of minor league baseball with 29 home runs. There’s a bit of pop in that lumber and now we know it.
As for the future, it’s unwritten. Well, actually, that isn’t true, it’s been written, several times, by pundits, evaluators, opposing coaches, and front office execs. Time and time again, people have shaken their heads and politely said, “He’s, well, he’s just too…”. I’ve read those reports, and they’re insightful, and often based on years and years of observations and experiences, but I also like to believe in the unbelievable. I keep a vial of optimism handy because of the knowledge that it happens. Not often enough to discern a pattern, but often enough to identify the dustings of when it’s possible. It’s possible when a kid loves the game more than breathing, and when the doubt of others fits as snuggly and as comfortably as Clooney’s tuxedo. Lucky for us, Ryan Rua appears comfortable with the doubt. He doesn’t care, he hears it, he absorbs it…but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t say much (as you’re about to find out), unless you’re an opposing catcher, or occasionally an umpire, but he listens. He hears what they’re saying, and the truth is…it’s helping.
What is your current height? 6' 2"
What is your current weight? 195
Let’s get right into the nitty gritty. I know all players will say they just want to get to the bigs, at any position, and that is absolutely the correct answer, but you got options. 2B, 3B, or LF, or (D.) all of the above? - You hit it spot on, whatever it takes to get me there, i started to feel comfortable at 2nd throughout the year, but being able to play multiple positions should help me out
What’s your favorite pitch to hit, in what count, and why? 2-0 3-1 fastball, just gear up for it and let it fly.
What’s your least favorite pitch to hit and why? (Assume no opposing pitchers will ever read this or, more likely, by the time they’ve read it, you will have made adjustments and you’ll crush the crap outta the pitch you’re about to mention)- that hard 2 seam in when I'm looking soft away hah
I recently wrote about the strikeouts of the Hickory squad and whether or not people should be worried about them. But that was all blah blah blah and us just guessing, so I’m asking you, a player. Do you worry about strikeouts, or are they just part of the game at this point? Yeah it’s definitely apart of the game and is going to happen so I try not to worry about it.
You’re from Amherst Ohio (30 minutes outside of Cleveland for our readers) and when I began investigating this fine town, I kept happening upon mentions of Hot Dog Heaven. Seems an ambitious name for a restaurant, but it’s apparently been there a long time and makes a damn find dog. Is there, in fact, a damn fine hot dog to be found at Hot Dog Heaven?- Best hot dogs I've ever had in my life, go there at least once a week in the offseason.
You are the first professional draft pick from Lake Erie College. I learned in my research that the mascot of LEC is the Storm. That name officially replaced “Unicorns” in 1988 when the college added men’s athletics. Did the jerkfaces from rival Ashland University ever call you guys the Unicorns, and would you have attended this awesome place had they not changed their name? - Haha no we were never made fun of for that team name, and yeah i still would have gone there because they gave me the opportunity to come in and start as a freshman.
I listen to many of the games online with the fine call of Aaron Cox, and it seems you play the game with a bit of a chip on your shoulder. I also derived this from a previous interview where you said “it’s given me a chip on my shoulder.” Just so you know, we’re fans of that. Does it come from being doubted? -yeah growing up i was always the smallest kid on the team or on the court, and i heard from a lot of people that i wouldn't succeed in college, and even more that i wouldn't be able to adjust to pro ball…but everything has worked out thus far. And even going to a Division 2 school where a lot of kids don't get drafted, but i think its something that i will always have.
Your batting average for June and July really jumped compared to your average in April and May. What do you attribute that to?- Just getting more comfortable as the season has gone along and pitch recognition.
5 words to describe Lebron James: (I ask all people from Ohio this) I used to like him.
Shout out time! Let’s drop some names of folks who’ve helped you out along the way: High school coach - Al McConihe, College coach- Brian Mcgee, my father and everyone else that coached me growing up
What’s the origin of the name “Rua”?- Its actually Spanish…but I got the blonde hair and blue eyes from my moms side haha
Not that you should be thinking about it now, because the ‘Dads wanna make the playoffs, but what does this offseason hold for you? A lot of indoor batting cages because there is a foot and a half of snow outside? Adding weight, subtracting weight, working at a specific position, goin’ out to Arizona at all? What does Ryan Rua do from the middle of September through February? - Indoor work a lot up north, Go out to AZ early to get ready for the season and out of the cold weather. A lot of lifting and agility at my high school, 5 times a week, to get my weight up…hoping to come back around 205-210lbs.
Big thanks to Ryan for taking time to chat and for answering my queries, even the dumb ones. Best of luck, young man, we’ll be watching.