By Bob Behre
The difference between a high school sophomore and high school junior can be substantially eye-opening. For Ryan Rumsey, it has truly been a matter of taking command.
Rumsey, a 6-0, 200-pound right-handed pitcher, has always possessed the athleticism, skill and mechanics that catch a college scouts eye, but those eyes also like to see an athlete perform at a high level. They particularly like to see pitchers have command of their pitches.
Rumsey, a junior at Paul VI in Haddonfield, committed to Xavier University in September after a strong summer with the Diamond Jacks Super 16U team. That impressive summer followed a spring in which Rumsey was, at times, dissatisfied with his overall performance.
“I struggled with my command in the spring,” he said. “I started alright but I’d start walking guys, get my pitch count up and get pulled.” Rumsey would pitch just 19 innings during his high school season and that was attributable in part to some long counts and long innings. “My command was my biggest problem. A little bit of it was mental. It got into my head and threw me off. I know now I have to trust my mechanics and slow the game down.”
Rumsey’s high school coach, Brett Young, agreed.
“Ryan is a competitor,” said Young. “Sometimes he tried to be too perfect. He was never afraid, though. We talk about the mental side all the time and we’ve seen a big change in him in the off-season. I always thought the mound was going to be his ticket to college and that is coming true. His velocity has picked up for him and he’s the guy leading the way, now.”
The maturation of Rumsey as a pitcher would happen quickly during a busy summer with the Diamond Jacks in which he gained the command of his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, changeup and slider he’d hoped for. What is fascinating in the development of Rumsey is his ability to be more of a pitcher than a heaver. Take, for instance, what he thinks about his changeup.
“My changeup is my second best pitch,” says Rumsey. “Other than my fastball, I’m very comfortable throwing the changeup. I threw it a lot this summer and it was often my go-to pitch.”
The number of high school pitchers who value their changeup at that level is quite small. Of course, that value is in direct proportion to those pitchers’ ability to command the changeup. Rumsey pairs that changeup with a fastball that sits in the 85-87 range and those are velocities that can make most high schoolers uncomfortable in the box. Add to that an effective changeup and Rumsey is building something here. He also throws a slider that he admits is in the developmental stage.
“The slider is alright, not really good yet,” said Rumsey. “I’ve been developing it in the off-season.”
If the development of Rumsey’s fastball is a reliable example, we can look forward to a much improved slider. His fastball has been on a steady, but natural climb the past three summers, from 80-82, to 84-86 to 85-87.
“Ryan joined our program last summer and was a great addition to the team,” said Steve DiTrolio, Rumsey’s Diamond Jack Super 16U coach and Diamond Nation’s recruitment coordinator. “He worked really hard and progressed nicely throughout the summer. He is an awesome kid who is extremely dedicated to being the best version of himself.”
In retrospect, Rumsey sees a big difference in his game after three months of summer ball.
“I thought it went really well,” he said. “My command was good, I had a looser mindset. I didn’t walk guys. I did my thing. We won a lot of games against good, competitive teams. And I got better.”
Nitpicking about Rumsey’s command issues 10 months ago aside, he had a heck of a high school season last spring, when considering both his contribution on the mound and the fact he became an integral part of the Eagles lineup. The third baseman batted .338, had five doubles, two HR and drove in 14 runs. He also stole nine bases.
“Ryan was our best hitter,” said Paul VI coach Brett Young. “He’s a good average guy with power. He really took off after we moved him into the leadoff spot. We had him batting third but he was seeing too many breaking balls. He’s got some raw power. The only guy I’ve coached who is comparable is Will Gambino.” Gambino is a redshirt freshman pitcher at Kentucky. “Both are big, strong kids. I expect Ryan to drive in a lot of runs for us and drive the ball over the wall this year.”
Paul VI was 15-8 last year and 8-4 in the rugged National Division of the imposing Olympic Conference. The Eagles lost just one senior from the 2019 squad and return their entire pitching staff.
“I think Ryan is going to have a breakout season this spring,” says DiTrolio. “I can’t wait to see him toe the rubber and see the results of all his hard work this winter.”
Xavier came into play for Rumsey at the WWBA Perfect Game showcase in Georgia the week of July 4.
“They saw me pitch that week and ‘Ditro’ told me to call them,” said Rumsey. “I interacted with them there then they saw me pitch again at the PBR Futures invite.” Xavier head coach Billy O’Connor then made contact with Rumsey by text on Sept. 1. “We started talking more and they offered me. I went there for a visit on Sept. 13 and committed on Sept. 16.”
Rumsey says he also had offers from Monmouth, LaSalle, Rider and St. John’s. “I thought the process was hard. It was hard to choose between five schools. College is a huge part in everyone’s life. I wanted to make the best decision, one that made me the most comfortable.”
Rumsey says he wanted to commit by the end of the summer or early in his junior year of high school. “It’s a little weight off my shoulders knowing where I’m going,” he said. “Now I just have to continue working hard so I’m more prepared to play at my best when I get to Xavier.”
Rumsey, right now, is focused on his fast approaching junior season at Paul VI and is extremely excited about his team’s prospects for 2020.
“We had a slow start last year but came together after a loss to Cherry Hill West,” said Rumsey. “We were playing tight and coach Young put us through a practice that loosened things up for us. We came together after that.”
Paul VI faces many of the very best teams in South Jersey on a daily basis in the Olympic Conference, including division rivals Camden Catholic, Seneca, Bishop Eustace and Cherry Hill West. It also must contend with challenging conference crossovers against Cherokee, Washington Twp. and Cherry Hill East.
“It’s always hard competing against really good teams in your league,” said Rumsey. “You have to play at your best consistently. But it makes you a better player and team.”
Rumsey climbed back on the mound last weekend for the first time in 2020. “I’m using a throwing plan given to me by coach ‘Ditro,’” said Rumsey. “I’m throwing 3-4 days a week.” He’s also hitting the weights at a local facility near his Cherry Hill home.
Young sounds like the typical cautiously optimistic coach trying to rein in his own excitement for the coming season.
“On paper we look really good but we’ll have to perform,” said Young. “We lost our catcher from last year, that’s it. Our entire pitching staff is back and they had good summers. We’re pretty deep on the mound. We won 15 games the past two years, so we should be able to take a step up. They guys are hungry and prepared and know what’s at stake.”
Paul VI has two other big challenges outside its outstanding conference. It should be a contender in the Diamond Classic, a prestigious tournament that becomes an unforgiving battle for South Jersey supremacy, and the NJSIAA Non-Public A tournament. Non-Public A is the deepest and most challenging of all group tournaments in the Garden State
“We’re five weeks away,” said Rumsey. “We’re doing all of this indoor training. Now I want to get outside on the field and get into real competition. Everyone is really excited and working really hard to get ready for the season.”
Figure Rumsey to be front-and-center in Paul VI’s fight for 2020 championships.
“I don’t need Ryan to be a rah, rah guy,” says Young. “He leads by example. We’ve had multiple conversations about it. His example has 8-10 guys working out together this winter in Cherry Hill. He’s a leader on the field just by the way he carries himself.”
Did you know?: Paul VI coach Brett Young is about to begin his fifth season at the Eagles’ helm. The 2000 Haddon Twp. grad spent a year at James Madison before coming back home to play two seasons at Gloucester County College. He was then drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 39th round. … Young coached in 2006-’08 and 2010 at Rowan College of Gloucester County and was later an assistant coach at Division 2 Oklahoma Panhandle State. He spent one season as the Haddonfield softball coach in 2015 before taking the Paul VI baseball job the following year.