For years San Diego County has been the premier hub for prep baseball in the United States, producing historic names such as Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, and Allen Trammell. And in the last 11 years has yielded three number one overall draft picks in Steven Strasburg, Brady Aiken, and Micky Moniak. And in two years, another San Diego baseball star could be coming out of Coronado’s backyard — current Coronado Islanders junior Ryan Ward.
For Ryan, baseball is more than just a sport; it’s a way of life. It’s a family affair if you will. For the San Diego baseball fans out there, the last name Ward should be quite familiar, as Ryan’s father Kevin Ward spent the 1991 and 1992 season as a member of the San Diego Padres.
“My dad is such a big reason why I got into baseball. I mean, it’s human nature to want to do what your dad does. It’s such a classic game, and I just fell in love with it right away. My dad always told me to never take the game for granted and to play tough all the time and to leave everything on the field.”
Sadly, in March of 2019 Ryan’s father passed away; and while the loss of his father weighs on his mind, Ryan makes sure he always honors his father when he takes the field. “Every time I’m out there playing, I do my best to play as he taught me. Go hard on every play and never take a single play or moment on the diamond for granted.”
For Ryan, each season, game, and practice is an opportunity to get better. He hopes the upcoming 2021 Islanders baseball season will be another opportunity to grow as both a player and a leader. “This being my third year on the team and on varsity, I want to assume more of a leadership role. I think this is a really good team with a lot of scrappy and hard-nosed players, and we definitely should make noise this year.”
When I asked Ryan’s head coach Morgan Cummins, about what he expects from his junior shortstop this season, he said: “Ryan is one of the most talented players I’ve ever coached. His biggest strength is he can do everything. He has great tools. Very athletic. Can hit with power to all fields. Very instinctual player. I expect Ryan to play hard and give us a great chance to win. Ryan is one of the veterans that guys will look up to this year. He will raise our play by leading by example.”
Ryan shared, “Morgan is a great coach; he’s always told me to be confident in myself and my abilities. One of the best things he preaches is slowing the game down and letting the game come to me. He’s been a huge part in helping me develop into a better player.”
For Ryan, the baseball journey is one that is just at its start. And while players shouldn’t look too far into the future, it’s hard to ignore what could be on the horizon.
As it stands, Ryan is committed to playing baseball at the University of Arizona, a Pac-12 baseball powerhouse that has six college world series titles to its name. It is also the same university where his father starred as a two-sport athlete in both baseball and football and was given First Team Pac-10 honors following his 1982 junior season (Pac-10 changed to Pac-12 in 2011). But more importantly, it’s also where Ryan’s parents, Christy and Kevin, met. “Arizona has always been special to me; it’s where my dad played, my parents met, it just always seemed like the perfect fit. And the head coach Jay Johnson was a huge selling point as well. He’s a great coach and motivator, and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to play for him in the future.”
It’s clear the future is exceptionally bright for Ryan, one that professional scouts around the country think could lead to a future in Major League Baseball. I asked Ryan if he ever thinks about the possibility of playing in the majors, to which he told me, “My goal is to make it to that level, and I’d love to represent Coronado, and honestly sometimes I think about it, but for me, all I’m thinking about is how I can become a better player and making sure that no one outworks me.”