Ryan Lee remembers playing catch with his dad, and being a batboy for his sister’s softball games. He was a secret team member, and knew he would play baseball forever.
His prowess at the plate hasn’t been so secret this season, as his .361 batting average is second for the Cal Poly baseball team, as are his .431 on-base percentage and 10 stolen bases.
“I love this game because it’s all about strategy and getting dirty,” says Lee, a 22-year-old junior outfielder who redshirted in 2005 to extend his college career.
After graduation, Lee says, he would give anything to play professionally.
He’s attracted interest from the Minnesota Twins, but grew up rooting for the San Francisco Giants. Lee was raised in Los Altos, a small city near Stanford, in a very cultured family.
His parents have hosted more than 30 exchange students from 15 different countries over the years.
“I liked growing up with different people because you get to experience a piece of their culture and understand how different societies are,” says Lee, who was a summer sports camp counselor for kids ages 6 to 12.
Lee says his parents are always away on some adventure, which has helped shape his understanding of the world.
“My family is my support system,” the Saint Francis High alumnus says.
Lee plays mostly right field, and some left field, but loves playing in center.
“I feel the most comfortable there because I can read the pitcher and the balls that come off the bat, so I can make my adjustments accordingly,” he says.
Lee points to his speed as his main strength, and believes the Mustangs have better camaraderie this season than in any other he’s played in.
“In the past, there have been players that get caught up with themselves and not thinking about what’s best for the team,” he explains. “But this year we are like a brotherhood – there aren’t any superstars.”
Lee also plays summer baseball, and this summer will play in Eau Claire, Wisc.
A year ago, as a member of the only Canadian collegiate team, the Kelowna Falcons of British Columbia, he boasted a team-best .303 batting average while stealing a league-record 27 of 30 bases.
“I want to play this game for a long time, and how I look at it is I just have to go out and play with no regrets,” Lee says.
The West Coast Collegiate Baseball League All-Star was an all-league second team honoree.
“Before every game, I visualize what I am going to do,” Lee says. “A couple summers ago I thought to myself, ‘OK, I will get at least one hit per game,’ and it happened. Then I tried to visualize two hits per game, and that happened. I really believe in the mental aspect of baseball, and developing your own approach.”
The Mustangs (19-23) open a three-game series hosting UNLV in Baggett Stadium at 6 tonight. First pitch Saturday is also at 6 p.m., with Sunday’s start slated for 1 p.m.