The passion for the game is evident with Ripken Reyes, who the San Diego Padres drafted late this past June. The infielder is a “grinder” in every sense of the word. You have to admire his work ethic and enthusiasm for the sport.
Playing in the Don Welke Classic has become a thing to be proud of if you are a young player in the San Diego Padres’ system.
The yearly showcase for prospects is an opportunity to play at Petco Park and get the feeling of being a Major Leaguer, even if it is only for a day or so. For the 30th-round draft pick Ripken Reyes, this was a great opportunity. A chance for the former USD Torero to play baseball in front of friends and family. Reyes enjoyed the opportunity to play as this was the ending to a crazy year for the infielder.
In San Diego, the day before the night game on Tuesday, several of the prospects had an opportunity to go around some of the local elementary schools and interact with the community. Reyes enjoyed the time with the kids as he still remembers what it was like to be in their shoes. “It was awesome. They all thought I was a Padre. It was a surreal experience. It is all about giving back to the community and the kids, especially,” Reyes said. “I was always one of those kids who looked up to them (players), so it was special to provide that joy for the kids,” Reyes said with a huge smile. The time with kids is something that this young player will never forget. He enjoys the interaction with the fans.
Reyes spent three years at Cal, playing in 88 games for the Bears. He put up a .707 OPS his junior year but transferred to USD in 2019 to play for the Toreros. His numbers spiked in San Diego as he hit .366 with a .962 OPS in 115 at-bats his senior year. The increase is his offensive output was credited to his new coaching staff. “The belief in myself and having coaches that believed in me. I worked with Brock Ungricht, and he has been the most positive experience in my life. He taught me how to hit. He took the time with me every single day. We went in there at 8 am every day and put in the work,” Reyes said proudly. The second-year hitting coach for USD is a former scout in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and he did a lot for the switch-hitter.
In speaking to Ripken Reyes, you understand the passion he has for the sport. He loves the game of baseball and is powered by that unquenchable thirst to get better. In asking him what motivates him and where his love of the game comes from- the answer is easy. “The drive and passion for wanting to play professional baseball. That was instilled in me by my dad. We made this goal that I want to play professional baseball and make it to the Major Leagues. That is a goal I am still striving for. This is something that I am working hard for, and I am not going to rest until I achieve my goal,” Reyes said. He spoke of his father and the fact he has been instrumental in all that he has achieved. The bond the two have is lasting.
Grinding your way to the Major Leagues is not easy. Most just do not make it. Especially those that are drafted as high as Reyes was by the Padres this past June. He knows the odds are against him, but he takes it all in stride and wants to prove his worth. “You are not going to find a guy who is going to work harder than me. You are not going to find a guy who is going to push their teammates more than me. You are not going to find a guy who is a better teammate than me. This is all I want to do with my life. I am going to put my heart and soul into it,” Reyes said with all sincerity. He lives for the game, and that is all that he thinks about. Ripken Reyes is a ballplayer.
Making it to Fort Wayne in his first year was quite an accomplishment. He went 14-for-49 (.286) in 16 games with a .809 OPS for the TinCaps. The 22-year-old was not intimidated by the league in 2019. “Everything is a blessing. I just want to take it all one day at a time. It was hard for me at first, but I had fun every single day there. It just felt right,” Reyes said about his time in the Midwest League.
Reyes brings several gloves to the field each day. He is versatile and enjoys the fact he can help his team in several different ways. “Second, shortstop, third base. I can play the outfield if you need me. I can even catch some,” Reyes said. Just put him in the lineup. He wants to play the game of baseball.
The switch-hitter has a simple approach at the plate. “Just put the ball in play. I don’t like to strikeout. That is the mentality I got from USD. I want to get on base and help the team win in some capacity. Put the ball in play and help the team win,” Reyes said with a smile. There are not a lot of moving parts to his swing, as he prefers to be quick and straightforward to the ball.
The goals for this young ballplayer are as simple as they get. “Just get better every single day and improve my game in every single aspect,” Reyes said.