Baseball: Ryan Court exhibits staying power in minor leagues
By Erik Jacobsen firstname.lastname@example.org August 6, 2012 4:24PM
Ryan Court stands ready to field a ball hit his way earlier this season while playing third base for the South Bend Silver Hawks. The Dundee-Crown graduate is in his second minor league season. | Submitted Photo
Updated: September 8, 2012 6:08AM
Approaching baseball as a job can be a difficult transition for a young player trying to make his way up through the minor leagues.
As the pressure of measuring up against peers who are also vying for playing time mounts, every hitting slump looms larger and the frustration of every fielding error lingers longer.
Ryan Court is in his second season as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system and can attest to the challenges, but as evidenced by his recent 14-game hitting streak, the 2006 Dundee-Crown graduate is finding a way to persevere.
“Honestly, just having fun playing the game has been the biggest key,” Court said. “With this sport when you take things too seriously it’s hard to relax being that baseball is such a game of failure. Lately I’ve been relaxing, having fun and playing like it’s backyard baseball again.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but that’s really been the thing, just having fun playing.”
Court hasn’t always had that bounce in his step this season, his first spent with the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Class A Midwest League. He began the year mired in a 2-for-22 funk at the plate and was sent back to Arizona for extended spring training in April.
Fast forward four months and Court is a fixture in the middle of the batting order for the Silver Hawks. He raised his batting average nearly 30 points during his 14-game hitting streak, which ended with an 0-for-4 showing Sunday, and he now sports an offensive line that includes five home runs, 36 RBI, 45 runs scored and a .271 average.
“It’s definitely hard on the mind when you get sent down, and you never really know what to expect,” said Court, who typically plays third base but saw time at first base early in the season. “I’m thankful that I took the right approach when I went down there and worked on my swing, my defense and things that I could control. That wound up benefiting me.”
Court was drafted in the 23rd round out of Illinois State last summer and began his professional career playing rookie ball for Arizona’s Frontier League affiliate in Missoula, Mont.
This season Court is significantly closer to home as the trip to South Bend, Ind., is only a short one for friends and family in the Chicago suburbs wanting to see him in action. He also drew a crowd last month when he and the Silver Hawks played a three-game series in Geneva against the Kane County Cougars.
Court doesn’t rank among the top prospects in the Diamondbacks organization, and players like him taken on the final day of the draft often face an uphill climb in their quest to reach the big leagues.
An alternative career path is in the works for Court, who plans to finish off his final few weeks of student teaching in elementary school this fall before graduating from ISU with a degree in education in December. But even if his future may someday include working in a classroom, Court is hardly ready to stop reporting to the ballpark.
“I just want to keep playing as long as I can,” Court said. “I’m an older guy being that I’m 24, and you never know when it’s going to be your last year.
“With all the things I’ve gone through this year, I hope (members of the Diamondbacks organization) see that I’m a fighter and I’m willing to go through whatever the process is to prevail.”