Freeport alum Siegel shines in New England collegiate showcase league
By Bill West
Published: Monday, July 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
While plenty of Americans headed to Martha's Vineyard this summer to enjoy laidback luxury, Ryan Siegel went to the famous Massachusetts island to test his baseball stamina.
Siegel, a 2010 Freeport graduate and former Valley News Dispatch Player of the Year, is a member of the Martha's Vineyard Sharks, of the New England-based Futures Collegiate Baseball League, a wooden-bat league. He's a newcomer to the trials of high-quality, game-a-day baseball. But thus far, he's undaunted by the challenge of daily starts.
A left-handed outfielder who finished his sophomore season at Division II Mercyhurst in the spring, Siegel leads the FCBL in batting average (.387) and ranks second in on-base percentage (.472). He's a safe bet to make the FCBL all-star game, which is Thursday in Pittsfield, Mass.; all-star rosters are expected to be released Monday.
“The biggest thing I've learned this summer is on the mental side of the game,” he said. “Everyone wants to get to this level, and it's really how you can handle yourself mentally through failure that determines who goes on to the next level.”
Siegel welcomes the opportunity to start five or six days a week. He finds and maintains a rhythm easier that way, he said.
Part of him wishes he made daily starts in the nearby Cape Cod League, which showcases many of the nation's best Division I players. Siegel earned a temporary contract with the Harwich Mariners in early June and filled in while one of the team's full-time players competed in the College World Series. He performed well in exhibitions, but his stint ended without a full-time contract offer.
“I wanted to go to the Cape and see if I still could compete at that level,” said Siegel, who transferred to Mercyhurst after an uneventful redshirt freshman year at Division I Coastal Carolina.
Siegel left the Mariners without disappointment; he believed he played well, and he knew teams tended to stick with their full-time contract players. He believed it best to stay in the area, where Major League Baseball scouts traveled in packs from one stadium to another. Fortunately for him, front office members of the Martha's Vineyard Sharks had reached out to Mercyhurst coach Joe Spano inquiring about Siegel last fall.
“Everything I wanted to do pretty much happened according to plan,” Siegel said.
Aside from the cost of living being considerably higher than in Western Pennsylvania, Siegel can't complain about life on the Vineyard. He lives with three teammates at a woman's house; the woman, “a host mom,” cooks them food, has a pool outside her house, and also owns two horses and several great danes.
Sharks coach Mike Miller can't complain about the late addition to his team's roster.
“I wasn't expecting this much out of him,” Miller said. “He's got crazy speed. He's one of those kids that, if you're at a workout and you see him, you'll take a second look and think, ‘Did he really just run that?' ”
Miller considers speed Siegel's most marketable tool to pro scouts. Plate discipline, Miller and Siegel agree, is one area that still needs more improvement.
Siegel has tried to limit his thoughts about his pro potential. He wants to work on his skills and trust the scouts to take notice. But those who watch Siegel, including Spano, envision a bright future for the speedy outfielder.
“I think I believe he can play professional baseball more than he can,” Spano said, “and that's something that he's got to get. He's got to feel that confidence, because there's so much more potential in him than he realizes.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.
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