What now for Kellogg? Arizona State or sign with Jays?
* LHP Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.) has a choice to make by July 13: sign with the Blue Jays or attend Arizona State University ….
By April Whitzman
What does it feel like to be drafted?
“It is very exciting to be drafted by the team that basically plays in my backyard,” said Canadian Ryan Kellogg who was drafted in the 12th round of this year’s MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. “The stadium is only 45 minutes from my house. I spent a lot of time in the summer during my younger years at the Dome watching the Jays play.”
The Whitby, Ont., native said, “The most exciting part of [it] all is the fact that Canada’s only remaining baseball team is trying to get Canadian kids into their system. It helps show that the sport doesn’t need to be dominated by Americans and that Canadians can play at the high calibre too.”
Touted as the top Canadian heading into the draft, Kellogg admitted that he was shocked when he was selected.
“I was very surprised by the round in which I was chosen,” he said. “I was predicted to go in rounds 4-6 so after those rounds had come and gone, I figured I would be taken closer to round 20 or later and it would be more of a courtesy rather a legitimate attempt to sign me. When my name was called in the 12th round I was shocked but very relieved.”
Thus, Kellogg has now been presented with a tough decision of whether to sign or to continue his career at Arizona State University where he has been accepted on full scholarship.
“I have worked hard throughout high school to improve my baseball skills as well as working hard in the classroom,” the left-hander said. “My interest in school definitely impacts my decision. My parents have always been for school and so was I as it did not become apparent to me that professional baseball would be a possibility until very recently.
“I am very interested in attending Arizona State University as the developments that can be made with their prestigious baseball history will help me become a better ball player. Also, having a degree almost completed by the time the time I could possibly be redrafted (2015) is a good fall back plan in the unfortunate event that baseball does not work out.”
He concluded, “I am still open to pro baseball but at this point ASU is a great option.”
Despite being excited about the opportunities that Arizona State provides, the lefty could play for Canada’s only Major League team thanks in part due to the pride he has expressed while playing for the Canadian junior national team.
“All my time with Team Canada has been incredible,” Kellogg said. “The coaching we get is second to none, the guys you play with become your family, we face pro competition, travel to exotic countries to learn to play outside of our comfort zone. What more can you ask for?”
“I can’t say [I have] one favourite memory, as there have been so many, but one that really sticks out in my mind is pitching against Colombia in the world qualifying tournament,” he said. “The feeling of representing your country is always an honour but to get to do it in a game of that much importance, against the host country, with the support of your team with you and the game on the line and in your hands is indescribable. That was by far the biggest game I had pitched in or pitched in since. Helping my country qualify for the worlds with that outing was an incredible feeling.”
His performance during the year with Team Canada and with his team at Henry Street High School enabled him to be named the ESPN Wide World of Sports Junior National Team MVP, win an Ontario Prospects Golden Glove in 2010 and be named to the 2011 Ontario All-Stars Team, among many others.
“The ESPN MVP award means the most,” Kellogg said. “The others were an honour to receive and be a part of but the MVP of the national team is the biggest compliment you can be given at this point in your career, in my opinion anyway. I was certainly shocked to hear that I was going to receive such an award but I was very excited when I got the news. It’s an incredible award and it is something I can take with me for the rest of my life.”
But despite winning the ESPN honour and helping his team defeat Columbia, Kellogg also discussed other favourite memories he has had with Team Canada. One such memory included playing with the national team during the St. Petersburg International Series against his drafted team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
“It was a great experience getting to face players in the MLB,” he said. “To be given the opportunity to pitch against that level of competition as a high school kid only happens once in a life time. It was a little nerve racking to see such big name guys standing up there but the coaches told us not to worry about it and to just go out and enjoy it.
“They told us to play how we always do and see what happens. I took the same approach to pitching against them as I do with the hitters I face on a regular basis and let it all play out. If they got a hit, I said okay I’ll get the next guy. I tried not to change too much and just see how my game compared to theirs. It was a great day for baseball, there was a light and energetic atmosphere around the game and everyone was looking to have a good time.”
The success Kellogg has found has been thanks in part to his perseverance, determination and pitch repertoire.
“The pitches I use include a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, curveball and most recently a cutter,” he said, before adding, “My best skill on the mound would probably be my composure. I am the type of guy that can let things go and adjust to the situation. Things don’t get under my skin very easily so if something doesn’t go right, I forget about it and keep the same mindset.
“Chris Reitsma, the pitching coach for the JNT always says, ‘The only thing you can control is the next pitch.’ That has helped me a lot. When I make a mistake on the mound, I realize it, learn from it, then forget about it and focus on the next pitch.”
In addition to the advice and support from Reitsma, Kellogg added that there have been a lot of people who have helped him throughout his professional career.
“The first being my parents,” he said. “They have been in it from the start and stuck through it with me over all the years, all the boring practices they had to watch, the long drives to tournaments, everything.
“Todd Campbell, who now runs Home Run Academy, the place where I train, was also very influential. He has been around since I was eight and helped move our team to the Ontario Prospects where I was introduced to Rob and Rich Butler who have now been coaching me since I was 12.
“Chris Kemlo, our pitching coach, has been the one I have worked most closely with, especially with mechanics, but Rob and Rich have been very involved with my career and development as well.
“From the national team, the manager Greg Hamilton and the pitching coach Chris Reitsma have both been very influential on my career and I owe a lot of my successes to them. Greg Hamilton gave me my start with the junior national team as well as allowing me the opportunity to attend the Under Armour All- America Game. Chris Reitsma has also been very helpful as his pitching philosophies and his approach to pitching has made me a stronger and smarter pitcher.”
As the highest-touted Canadian in this year’s draft, Kellogg was asked what he thought of last year’s highest drafted Canadian, former teammate, and also a member of the Toronto Blue Jays organization, Tom Robson.
“Robson was a great guy to have in the locker room,” Kellogg said. “He always kept things interesting and fun. He was the type of guy that knows when to make a joke and have fun around the game as well as being a very competitive pitcher on the mound and when it was time to be serious.
“I played with him for a year and it would great to get the chance to play with him again. Playing for the Jays with him would be similar to playing with him on Team Canada. When I was new to the team he helped be that mentor as he was a veteran and I’m sure he’d do the same thing for me again if I join him with the Jays.”
Concluding the interview, Kellogg shared a unique tidbit about himself.
“One thing a lot of people wouldn’t know is that I used to be a catcher,” he said. “I started around age eight or nine and kept at it until I was 13. At 13 I only stopped because the coaches pulled me aside and told me I’d have a better chance at playing pro ball if I converted to being a pitcher rather than a catcher.
They didn’t say I wouldn’t be able to do it as a catcher, only that it was more unlikely and would be a lot more difficult. It was a tough decision but with playing pro being the ultimate goal, I reluctantly gave it up and now I’m very glad I did.”