* LHP Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.) the former catcher — yes catcher — with the Ontario Prospects, coach by Rob and Rich Butler, heads into his draft year with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Kellogg is shown here taking ground balls during pitcher’s fielding practice.
By Alexis Brudnicki
TUCSON, Az. — This could be it for Ryan Kellogg.
In his junior year at Arizona State University, the left-hander who hasn’t stopped adding achievements to his baseball resume since he stepped foot on campus is heading into his second season of draft eligibility and should be a hot commodity in June.
“This is the year, so I’m excited about it,” Kellogg said. “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen, but at the same time I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. We still have…a long season to get through and hopefully that will end up in Omaha. I’ve got to take all that one day at a time, get through that and what happens in the draft happens. I’ll let that play itself out.”
This season will see a lot of changes for the 6-foot-5, 225-pound southpaw and his teammates, and Kellogg is looking to make it a memorable one whether or not it is his final year with them.
“I’m focused on taking it one day at a time,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of new stuff going on here. We’re in the middle of a transition, we’ve got a new coaching staff, we’re heading over to a new facility and I’m trying to really enjoy knowing that this could potentially be my last year at Arizona State.
“Every day I walk into the clubhouse thinking about how much I’m going to miss this place and how much I’m going to miss these guys if this is my last year.”
With one selection process already under his belt, chosen by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12th round of the 2012 draft out of Henry Street High School, Kellogg is better prepared for the three-day event this year.
“I learned a lot of things,” the native of Whitby, Ont. said. “It’s hard to pick just one thing but being familiar with the process now definitely helps. Knowing what to expect on draft day, what the calls are going to be like, what to expect from scouts, other players, coaches, and the whole atmosphere of that day.”
Since opting for college instead of professional baseball, Kellogg has twice been named a first-team all-conference player with two On Deck Circle MVP awards and the Sun Devils’ pitcher of the year honour highlighting a vast array of accomplishments over his two seasons in the Grand Canyon State.
“It’s been everything I wanted it to be and then some,” the 20-year-old said. “I definitely think I made the right decision in coming to school. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing, so I definitely think I ended up in the right place.”
Kellogg chose ASU over the University of Kentucky, Binghamton, St. Louis University and Ohio State after a high school career with the Ontario Prospects and several stints with the Canadian Junior National Team program.
“It’s been exciting to go through the whole transition process of playing for travel-ball teams, playing on Team Canada, coming all the way out here and having a chance to play every day as opposed to just a couple times a week,” he said. “It was an interesting transition at the start but I’ve enjoyed every minute being out here.”
Several factors weighed into the young hurler’s decision to join the Sun Devils squad, his primary reasoning based around the climate.
“The ability to play all year round,” Kellogg said. “I had enough of being in the cages and throwing tennis balls and baseballs inside for six months. Being given a chance to come out here and play outside – the last couple years I’ve been able to long toss in shorts and a t-shirt in December when everyone else is freezing.
“All my other friends who are going to school in the northeast are inside starting in November. You can’t beat the weather here, the tradition; the history of ASU. There’s really nothing more you could ask for.”
To follow up his second successful season in the Pac-12 conference, Kellogg spent a second summer playing for the Bourne Braves in the prestigious Cape Cod League last year, another experience that turned out better than he could have imagined.
“With the history and tradition of the Cape, seeing all the big leaguers who have come out of there, playing on the same field as them, it was a great experience there,” he said. “I had good coaches who I became pretty close with, we had good teammates from other schools. It was nice being able to see other guys you compete with out here.
“We had a couple guys from U of A, USC, other Pac schools, and to be able to play with them and learn from them as well was cool. Then [having] the whole host family experience – some pro teams do that as well – becoming familiar with that was also very beneficial.”
So far, the highlight of Kellogg’s young career has been the no-hitter he threw against Oregon State in his freshman year, the one-hitter he threw in summer ball with his family in attendance ranking not far behind.
He was also honoured to be in a unique situation last season when he was matched up against fellow Canuck and former Team Canada teammate Cal Quantrill – who is also racking up accolades in the conference as he heads into his sophomore season – when Stanford hosted the Sun Devils.
“I follow him a little bit and see how he’s doing,” Kellogg said of Quantrill. “Every once in a while I’ll check in and see how things are going and it’s exciting to see. He did well last year. He had a great year.
“It was potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity last year when we got to pitch against each other at Stanford. That was a great experience. He’s a great kid, he’s a great player, and I’m excited to see where he’s going to go and where he’s going to take his team.”
The young lefty has been keeping tabs on the Cardinal’s ace since they were both leading the way for the national squad, with Kellogg ranking Quantrill among the best players he’s seen firsthand from north of the border.
“We’ve had some pretty dominant performances on both sides,” Kellogg said of the junior team. “Josh Naylor hit the youngest home run in Team Canada history. Cal had some unbelievable performances against just about everybody we played.
“I’ve seen Gareth [Morgan] hit balls further than any other person I’ve ever seen; possibly still. He hit some balls pretty hard. I don’t know about individual games or individual performances but those guys were pretty special players.”
Kellogg still cherishes the time he got with Team Canada and is grateful for the opportunities it afforded him.
“The junior team did pretty much everything for me,” he said. “Without them I would not be here, I wouldn’t have had the chance to travel the world like I did, I wouldn’t have been able to represent my country – all of those things have made me into what I am today, on and off the field.
“[Baseball Canada’s director of national teams] Greg Hamilton does a great job with that program, unbelievable. He always talked about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, and what’s more uncomfortable than going from Canada and moving 2,500 miles to the Arizona heat and pitching when you’re used to pitching in front of 30 people, and now you’re pitching in front of five thousand fans.
“The way he runs it with us going to the Dominican and Cuba, getting to experience all those different cultures and different ways of life and being uncomfortable in all those situations that are not familiar has definitely helped me mentally.
“Then being able to work with other coaches like Chris Reitsma and Mike Johnson on the pitching side of things, that’s definitely been very beneficial to my career thus far. And hopefully now that I’m here, maybe I’ll get a chance to play with the Senior National Team at some point. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Though the roster will likely be stocked with professional players, with Canada’s next senior tournament taking place right in Kellogg’s own backyard – the men looking to defend their Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame – worthy 2011 gold-medal performance at the upcoming Pan Am Games in Ajax in July – he knows his chance could potentially come sooner than later.
“That would mean a lot,” he said. “Even to put Canada across your chest is something that I hold near and dear to my heart. I have a ton of great memories with them and I would love to make some more.
“The fact that this time it would be on Canadian soil – someone mentioned it a little while ago and I looked it up and it’s in Ajax at the field where I grew up playing the last five years of my career before college – and to be literally 10 minutes from my house, to be able to have friends and family come out and see that and be a part of that experience again, to represent the country and hopefully bring home a gold medal would be an unbelievable experience.”
With the season just around the corner before Kellogg heads into an exciting summer, his focus will stay with the Sun Devils. Though he hasn’t taken any time to reflect on his accomplishments so far, he will certainly be looking to do more of the same for his squad.
“I take notes of them and you appreciate it,” he said. “You like the fact that other people have taken notice of how hard you work and you sort of realize that your hard work has paid off, but at the same time it’s go, go, go.
“You finish your season and go straight to summer ball and that’s a whole new season for you to try to prove yourself. I don’t take it for granted and I appreciate them but you [think] that one’s over with now; move onto the next one.”