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Crawdad Feature: Ryan Ellis

by Coby Segal

On July 15, 2023, the Walnut Creek Crawdads visited the Lincoln Potters for a sweltering 105-degree night game. Ryan Ellis had failed to reach base in three plate appearances. Not only was his 24-game on-base streak in jeopardy, but the Crawdads were in danger of losing two baseball games in a row for the first time this season. The Crawdads had already scored three runs in the 6th after being down 6-2, and with two outs, they needed Ryan Ellis to tie the game. With a 3-2 count and teammate Max Farfan on third, Ellis ripped a line drive into right field to tie the game at 6.

Ryan is the most consistent force in the California Collegiate League (CCL). Listed at Five-feet-eight inches, he is among the shortest players in the CCL North. With this small frame, Ellis still generates enough power to hit line drives all over the field. He combines elite bat-to-ball skills with tremendous swing decisions at the plate. In 104 CCL plate appearances, Ellis has a laughable .425/.548/.563, slash line with 17 walks and eight strikeouts. Among players with at least 50 PAs in the CCL, his .548 OBP is second to Connor Charpiot of the Healdsburg Prune Packers. At every level, he has gotten on base at an elite rate.

However, injuries have limited Ellis to 111 PAs in 3 seasons at Saint Mary’s College. In addition to being a second baseman, he was also a catcher, but back injuries have likely ended his catching career. When I asked Ryan about this, he said, “As of right now, I am mainly focusing on middle infield, and outfield if I am needed there. But as of right now, I am not catching, but if something in the future presents itself, it is something I would reconsider.” I do not have a medical degree, but it is wise to play it safe and not risk further injury, especially considering his success this summer almost exclusively playing second base. On Wednesday, he started in Center Field for the first time and made a few nice plays to his right. The willingness to play outfield will only open up more opportunities at the University of Texas Arlington (Ellis officially signed on July 15 after entering the transfer portal) and beyond. But with his bat, any University would find it hard to leave Ryan Ellis out of their lineup.

Not only has Ellis been one of the biggest reasons for the Crawdads’ success this year, but he has also hugely benefitted from the opportunity to play for Crawdads manager and owner Brant Cummings. One benefit is playing time, as Ellis has about as many plate appearances this season as in his college career. But with over 2000 collegiate baseball players in the 2023 transfer portal, who you know matters. Advertising yourself to coaches is necessary, but without thousands of followers, it is challenging. Coach Brant Cummings was instrumental in Ellis’ transfer to UT Arlington. He said, “Coach Cummings is really good friends with my new coach, Coach [Clay] Van Hook at Texas Arlington. He was able to reach out to him along with Tyson [Tyson Pointer plays on both the Crawdads and Texas Arlington]… He has been in contact with his coaches as well, putting in a good word…and they ended up taking a shot at me.” For most of the Crawdad players, this summer is about more than just their performance on the field. It is about making their baseball careers as long as possible, and For Ryan Ellis, that means Texas Arlington is “taking a shot” at him. On his ultimate baseball goal, Ellis said, “Anyone that is out here the end goal is to get to the big leagues, the peak of baseball. It is really rare and tough to make it there staying healthy, and probably the biggest thing for me is staying on the field. I know I am capable of doing what I need to do to get there.” It is not just summer baseball for these players. They want to do the not impossible but incredibly rare feat of becoming a Major League Baseball player.

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