By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
A former Ram could become a Cub — or possibly a Bulldog.
In the 12th round of the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month, the Chicago Cubs picked former Portales Ram Ryan Acosta from Clearwater Central Catholic High School in Florida.
And the 17-year-old also has a full-ride scholarship to the University of Georgia, should he choose that route.
“I’m ecstatic,” Ryan’s mom Kathy said. “I’m very proud of him and very happy for him.”
Ryan is the son of Elida native and long-time professional baseball coach Oscar Acosta.
Oscar was managing the Gulf Coast Yankees in the New York Yankees organization when he died in a car accident in April 2006 in the Dominican Republic while on a scouting trip. His professional baseball coaching career spanned 15 years.
“(Ryan) always looked up to his father,” Kathy said. “And he knew that anything that he came across that he needed help with that Oscar was there to direct him in the right way.”
Acosta grew up in Portales and played Little League and his freshman year at Portales before moving to Florida.
Family friend and current Elida head baseball coach Jimmy Ward said he knows why the Cubs coveted the 17-year-old.
“He’s just a great kid,” Ward said. “But the kid throws a 91 mile-an-hour fastball, too.”
Kathy said Ryan didn’t become serious about the sport until the eighth grade, and even then, baseball wasn’t his only interest.
“He was given options to do what he wanted to do his whole life,” Kathy said. “Whether he wanted to play the piano, or go to school, or play golf or just be an artist or a writer, he was given options his whole life about what he wanted to do.”
“When Ryan was young, Oscar really didn’t do a lot of coaching to him,” Ward said. “He would suggest and kind of let Ryan do his own thing. He let Ryan grow up. He didn’t push him much.”
While growing up the son of a Major League Baseball pitching coach, Ryan got to spend his summers in Chicago and Texas watching his dad at work.
“Just being around the people that he got to be around in the summer, he spent his life with the Cubs up there hanging around those guys, that had to be a big influence on him,” Ward said.
Kathy said she expects the Cubs to make Ryan a minor league contract offer later this summer, but he has also recieved a full-ride scholarship to play baseball at the University of Georgia.
“I think (if he decides to go to college) he’ll go even higher in the draft,” Ward said. “With just a little time in college I think he’ll go in the third or fourth round.”
“We love the Cubs,” Kathy said. “There’s a lot of good people there and that is a wonderful ballpark and wonderful fans.”
With a major life decision awaiting him in the next several months, Kathy shared with us some motherly advice she is giving her son.
“Remember to keep one foot in the real world and one foot half-way in never-never land, because somehow that will keep you balanced.”