Gregory Ryan, Jr. had been going to see baseball games at The Diamond since the Richmond Braves played there. He thought it’d be cool to play in that stadium.
He’ll get to play there regularly now that he is a VCU Ram.
Before transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University in nearby Richmond, Ryan – who is from North Chesterfield – played baseball for the University of Pittsburgh his freshman year of college. He had committed to Pitt as a sophomore, but he remembers the coaching staff changing about two days before he got on campus. The only coach who he knew to remain on staff was a pitching coach, so as a result, Ryan, a fielder, didn’t really have a relationship with him or with any of the new coaches. He said that, after the season, they wanted to go in a different direction, and so that led Ryan to transfer.
“I didn’t really have a relationship with any of the coaching staff,” he said, “so I needed to be somewhere else.”
Some of Gregory’s friends were already playing for VCU and are on the team now, and they seemed to enjoy it there, he said. He also knew he wanted to be somewhere closer to home than where he was.
There’s also his memories of going to The Diamond – the Rams' home field – and when he was younger, he used to attend VCU Baseball camps.
He pointed to VCU Baseball’s winning tradition, and to their players – like Connor Gillispie (Baltimore Orioles), Sam Ryan (Toronto Blue Jays) and this year’s shortstop Zac Ching (LA Dodgers) – getting selected in the MLB draft.
He’ll also get to see his friends more while at VCU.
“It’s pretty cool because a lot of my friends live around that area,” he said. “I think it’ll be cool that they can come watch me play whenever I have home games.”
Prior to college, Ryan played shortstop for Benedictine Baseball and contributed to the Cadets winning the VISAA state championship in 2017. He moved to second base when he joined the Pitt Panthers.
In making the transition from high school to the collegiate level, Ryan observed that everyone was good up and down the lineups – “the game would speed up at times as well; balls would get hit harder, people are running faster” – so adjusting to the speed of the game was key.
As a true freshman, he worked his way into the starting rotation on Sunday, March 10 at N.C. State. He remained a mainstay in Pitt’s lineup from there, starting in 39 games.
Ryan hit the first home run of his college career in his native state while playing the Cavaliers at the University of Virginia on March 24. In his first season as a collegiate player, he batted .232 with 29 hits, 10 RBIs, 10 runs scored, 6 doubles, a triple, and multi-hit performances against Penn State (March 12), Wake Forest (April 13), Presbyterian twice (April 26 and April 27) and Maryland Eastern Shore (May 1).
From that season, he saw multiple improvements he could make to his game, and with summer league play, he spoke to working on recognizing when he needs to charge the ball and when he needs to stay back while he’s fielding, as well as on better recognizing the kind of pitch he’s getting prior to swinging.
Ryan joins a Rams team that went 39-19 in 2019, is coming off its eighth straight winning season and enjoyed its winningest mark overall since 2015. He's one more talented player from the RVA area to become a part of VCU's roster, which includes but is not limited to Mechanicsville's Hayden Moore and Justin Sorokowski, Glen Allen's Cooper Benzin and Connor Hicks, Chester's Hunter Vay, Powhatan's Logan Amiss, New Kent's Steven Carpenter, Dinwiddie's Tomas Sanchez and North Chesterfield's Maddison Furman, whom Ryan knew along with Josh Simon prior to transferring in.
Ryan wants to play shortstop for the Rams, and he looks to bring speed and contribute to the team as a hitter after he makes a few adjustments with the coaching staff on his hitting approach.
The coaches said they wanted him to come in and make an impact right away, he noted. But Ryan also has to earn his spot, he said, so he’s looking to do well all preseason and make sure he’s in a spot to play next year.