Pine-Richland grad Ryan Okuda receives prestigious award at Virginia Tech
For his performance on the mound and in the classroom, Pine-Richland alumnus and Virginia Tech sophomore pitcher Ryan Okuda was a recipient of the Skelton Award for Academic Excellence in Athletics at the Virginia Tech Athletics Director Honors Celebration.
Okuda received the award, described as the highest designation granted by the institution’s athletic department, for his successes in academics, athletics and the community.
The mechanical engineering major said he was stunned to receive the award, the magnitude of which he didn’t fully grasp until the event.
“It’s funny. Going into it, I didn’t even really realize the entire scope of the award,” he said. “I just applied for it, thinking that I’d give it a shot.
“Then, looking into it more and more, and, arriving at the event, I realized just how important it is and how much it really means. I know there were a lot of great athletes at Virginia Tech that were up for it, so it’s an incredible honor to be up for the award with them and to win it.”
The award is given to one male and one female athlete per year. The recipients must have played sports at Virginia Tech for at least two seasons and own a GPA of at least 3.40. A scholarship of $5,000 is given to each winner.
In addition to his academic work, Okuda flourished as a reliever for the Hokies. The left-hander pitched 32 innings and posted a 3-1 record with a 1.69 ERA. ACC batters produced just five extra-base hits against Okuda, who struck out 25 and walked seven.
“I’ve made some adjustments. I think the issue I had last year was that I got away from a lot of the stuff in high school that brought me success,” he said. “This year, I really made it a point to go back to doing those things, having that same approach.
“In high school, I really attacked batters. I basically dared them to hit what I was throwing. This year, I really made it a point to throw strikes and attack batters. Even if they hit it, I had confidence that they weren’t going to hit it well.”
Okuda is trying to position himself for success beyond college, regardless of how baseball pans out. That, he said, is a credit to his parents, Kristen and David Okuda, who helped him take a mature approach to college baseball.
“Even when I was making a decision on my college choice, my parents and I always talked about the possibility of what happens if I can’t play baseball?” he said. “I should pick a school where I can get a useful degree in something that I enjoy doing.
“Over the years, I’ve seen guys get hurt. Seeing that, it’s motivated me to follow through on that point we were trying to make when we decided on a college. Knowing that one game, one day, it could be my last. I still want to set myself up for a good situation where I am going to be happy with my future.”
Kevin Lohman is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.