By Tino Abarca
“Committed to preparing young men for college and for the process of life-long learning.”
The Brother Rice High School mission statement says it all. The transcription fares true for many who have walked through the doors of Brother Rice. Many notable personalities have stepped foot in this respected high school, like NHL Hall of Famer Eddie Olcyzk and Philadelphia Phillies manager Pete Mackanin.
The Catholic school located in Chicago’s south side has done the unthinkable for Michigan State baseball commit Ryan King. The Crusaders’ shortstop is one of the most highly touted athletes in the state of Illinois, and he is indebted to his term at Brother Rice.
Playing extremely competitive baseball at a high level is something Ryan King has done excessively throughout his tenure at Brother Rice. The Crusaders have been ranked nationally on several occasions, along with playing in this year’s USA Baseball National High School Invitational.
The passion and continuous game play seem to never stop for King, but head coach John McCarthy doesn’t think his shortstop would have it any other way.
“Super competitive kid,” McCarthy said. “He loves the game of baseball; that’s the biggest thing with him.”
During the summer, King plays for the Illinois Sparks travel team, along with participating in Prep Baseball Report events.
The shift to high-end Big Ten opposition is something that King has prepared for over a long period of time. From molding himself into one of the nation’s best defensive shortstops in high school, to playing against some of high school’s best, King is set up for a smooth transition to the next level.
Between high school and showcase play, McCarthy knows the talent and competition they’re surrounded by is extraordinary.
“Super competitive kid. He loves the game of baseball; that’s the biggest thing with him.” –John McCarthy, on Ryan King
“The level of competition in the Chicagoland area is fantastic,” McCarthy said. “It speaks to the level of the player, and the coaches and their programs.”
Chicagoland area talent has already made its mark in East Lansing. Spartans Marty Bechina, Danny Gleaves and Alex Troop all reign from the prestigious Chicago Catholic League. Bechina was named to the 2016 Big Ten All-Freshman Team and has started all 51 games in the 2017 campaign. The Spartans ace, 2017 Big Ten Baseball Preseason Honors List nomination, Alex Troop has dominated on the mound, coming off a sudden ending to his 2016 season due to injury.
A team captain, King is a well-respected leader amongst his teammates. Being marked captain is no small matter considering the tradition, culture and respect Brother Rice has built up over the years.
King, the Crusaders’ plus-.300 lead-off hitter, can get the job done on the field, but it’s the intangibles that really stand out to teammates and coaches.
“He’s a guy that always competes,” McCarthy said. “The guys trust him out there because they know he’s going to give it everything he has, every day.”
Being marked captain is no small matter considering the tradition, culture and respect Brother Rice has built up over the years.
Although King considered other top schools like Indiana, Louisville, Michigan and Xavier, McCarthy describes that one of the biggest factors that drew King to Michigan State was “finding people he can trust.”
For King, it wasn’t one simple component that convinced him to spend the next four years in East Lansing. The complete package MSU offered comprised of everything he had on his checklist.
“Young coaching staff, team atmosphere, nice field… they have pretty much everything you have to offer,” King said.
McCarthy played a significant role in King’s recruiting, jump-starting the process early in his high school career.
“He reached out to 10-to-20 coaches,” King said of McCarthy. “He put in a good word, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
McCarthy was a big reason why King decided to choose to be a Spartan. He encouraged deep talks with coaches and had a good relationship between Spartans assistant coach Skylar Meade.
“He’s young, full of enthusiasm, loves to win, but win or lose he still loves his kids,” King said about his head coach, who is in his sixth season at Brother Rice. “He just wants the best for his players…I can’t thank him enough.”
Joining Chicago St. Rita graduates Bechina and Gleaves is something that King is looking forward to.
“Me and Danny are really close, we talk a lot,” King said. “He and Marty both messaged me reassuring they have my back, should I need anything.”
Of course, it’s inevitable that Brother Rice teammates will become foes down the road. Current teammate Ryan Kutt, as well as former teammates Mike Massey and Andrew Dyke, will sport the University of Illinois uniform next season.
“It’s awesome. We can stay in touch, I can see my best friends on the other team,” King said. “I miss Massey a ton, I miss Dyke. I miss those guys. It should be fun.”
King and the Crusaders, who sit at 26-9 on the year, have wrapped up the annual Do It Stevie’s Way Tournament and begin to prepare for postseason action, which begins Wednesday. Brother Rice is among the favorites to make a run at the 4A State Championship in Joliet, Ill. this June.