By Gary Brown
Ryan Avery’s take on baseball is that you better be mentally tough to master a game in which 3-for-10 is considered a success.
“In what other sport can you be 30 percent at anything and stay in the game?” said the Ashland University outfielder. “You can’t be a 30 percent tackler. You can’t shoot 30 percent from the field. You have to be mentally strong to play baseball because it’s a game based on failure.”
By all accounts, Ryan Avery is anything but a failure. The junior sports management major from Berea, Ohio, just southwest of Cleveland, is closer to 40 percent than 30 at the plate and is among leaders in most every offensive category for an Eagles squad that won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2009 and advanced to another regional in 2010.
But like most student-athletes, Avery is even more impressive off the field. The product of a public-school education wants to build a career on ensuring that others behind him have equally inspiring experiences.
“Kids shouldn’t think they have to go to a private school to get what they need,” Avery said.
To facilitate that community spirit, Avery envisions a series of youth sports camps run by public school graduates who have gone on to be role models. While he says it’s up to the student and the parents to shape that young person’s life, a community bond can help ensure that person feels wanted. In the long run, Avery wants to operate a sports complex composed of youth leagues, particularly baseball.
The diamond game sure helped Avery shape his own course. Equipped with the bloodlines to hit and run (his great-grandfather was a Negro Leagues star, and his grandfather went to spring training with the Cleveland Indians in the early 1970s), Avery also had the build to run and hit (6 feet 1 inch, 210 pounds). But he chose baseball over football because he was more proficient at the former and saw that as a better path toward what he wanted more than either sport – a quality college education. That led him an hour south to Ashland – close to home but not at home – where Avery said the student-teacher ratio and access to professors suit him just fine.
“And everyone is so nice here,” he said. “That sounds so cliché, but it’s true. There’s a sign coming into Ashland saying that it’s the capital of nice people. They’re right.”
Make no mistake – Avery is nice, too.
“I’m an outgoing, open-minded person who can interpret social situations pretty quickly,” he said. “I can talk to anybody and have a great conversation.”
Those traits come from family members he admires, particularly his older brother, Christopher, who was a four-year starter in football at Edinboro and is now a Navy Seal.
“He has tremendous heart,” Avery said of his brother. “A lot of civilians think they have it hard in the business world, but when you have to come to grips with potentially taking someone’s life in order to protect your country, how do you think that resonates with that person compared with someone who just had a rough day at work?
“It sure puts my life in perspective.”
Avery’s father also made a difference. A three-time victim of corporate downsizing, Jim Avery nonetheless found the resourcefulness to send his kids to college.
“He always refers to the adage, ‘Keep the main thing the main thing,’” Avery said. “He’ll tell me, ‘You may be doing well in baseball, but keep the main thing the main thing – you need your education after college.’ He’s one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever known.”
Ryan Avery isn’t far behind in that regard. He may be a .350 hitter on the diamond, but he’s closer to batting 1.000 pretty much everywhere else.