Sports Person of the Week
Ellison Finding His Happy Place at Valley
Ryan Ellison has been a bright spot on the bump for the Warriors so far this season. In addition to pitching, the senior also plays first base. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Ellison)
Ryan Ellison is making the most of his senior season with the Valley Regional baseball team. Ryan mans the No. 2 spot in the Warriors’ starting rotation, and he feels grateful for the chance to finish up both his senior year and his Valley career on the field this spring.
Baseball is the lone sport that Ryan plays. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused spring sports to be canceled in 2020, Ryan really missed spending time with his teammates on the diamond. That time away from the sport is making Ryan appreciate what he and his teammates have an opportunity to do this year.
“I appreciate all the time I’ve had with the coaches and my teammates. All of them have been very good to me as far as the future goes. The coaches have taught me a lot about baseball and about life. They’ve taught me a lot of life lessons,” Ryan says. “The memories that we make as a team and with my coaches are what I’m always going to hold on to after I’m done at Valley.”
Ryan knows that there’s a lot of talent that is ready to be unleashed on the Warriors’ roster. Ryan wants to see what some of these younger players are able to accomplish this season.
Valley is set up well for the future thanks to its influx of young arms, but Ryan believes that the Warriors can also achieve something special in 2021.
“I think our team has a lot of potential. We have a young core group,” says Ryan. “There is a solid group of sophomores that are really doing well with the team. It’s exciting for the team’s future, but I think we can do well this year, too.”
As a senior, Ryan wants to show Valley’s younger players how to best support their teammates. He also wants them to learn what to expect when playing at the varsity level.
“You have to teach the sophomores the ropes, obviously, but they’ve picked up on it pretty quickly. I also want to create a friendly environment for them,” Ryan says. “I’ve been in situations where there’s toxicity regarding playing time for upperclassmen and stuff. I think we’ve done a good job creating an environment where the people who are performing are going to play, and that’s what matters. We have to do what’s best for the team and try to cheer each other on.”
Ryan contributes in a big way for the Warriors on the mound. Ryan has some zip on his fastball, but he relies on his off-speed pitches first and foremost. In Ryan’s recent start against Morgan, he picked up the win after allowing just one hit.
“I’d say as a pitcher, I’m crafty. I have a slider and a curveball, and those are my best pitches,” says Ryan, who lives in Ivoryton. “I don’t throw extremely hard, but hard enough for high school baseball. My fastball and my slider have been working for me pretty well so far this season.”
Ryan has put in a lot of hard work with his father Tom in the backyard. Ryan wasn’t always a pitcher, but he’s become a quality hurler for the Warriors due to his dedication toward fine-tuning his mechanics.
“I wasn’t a pitcher to begin with. I spent countless hours with my dad. He used to be a pitcher, too. He helped me a lot in the coaching aspect and making sure I have the proper mechanics,” Ryan says. “I’ve been playing baseball pretty much as long as I can remember. I started playing Wiffle Ball with my dad in the backyard, and then I decided to pursue playing baseball.”
Ryan can also get some good lumber on the ball when he’s up at the plate. When he steps into the box, Ryan’s goal is to get on base. If there is already a runner aboard, then Ryan’s job is to drive him in.
“At the plate, I look to get the ball in play and try to find a hole to get on base for my team. If I get the ball in the hole or hit into a gap, I can be helpful,” says Ryan. “I’m just looking to do my best for the team in terms of getting runs in or just being a base runner.”
When Ryan isn’t toeing the rubber, he plays some first base for Valley. Ryan has become pretty adept at fielding both of his positions over the years.
“As a pitcher, you don’t get to field as much, but you have to put in the work to know where to go on weak ground balls and bunts,” says Ryan. “As a first baseman, I’ve been working on my picking. I have a decent amount of picks this season. I want to help out my fielders, so the team doesn’t give up as many runs.”
The long layoff from baseball has been hard on Ryan, although he used that time wisely to improve his skills on the ballfield. Now that he’s back out there, Ryan feels incredible.
“It was really hard to lose my junior season. I worked on my mechanics. I worked with some of my teammates. We wanted to put the time in. That was important to us whether we played or not,” says Ryan. “Getting back on the field felt great, honestly. There was a lot of rust coming into the season. We only got a few practices in before we started. It feels good to be on the mound at least. When I hit, it brings back those memories of Little League and middle school baseball. That’s been my happy place. I’m just really happy to be back.”
Now, Ryan just wants to make sure that the Warriors take nothing for granted. Anything can happen, and Ryan hopes that notion motivates his team to be its best.
“Enjoy it while you can, because you never know when it can be taken away,” Ryan says. “Appreciate the memories that you’re going to make with teammates. Those are what you’re always going to remember.”