It’s been a good summer for Ryley Leininger.
Now, it’ll be unforgettable.
A recent commit to the University of Oklahoma not long after a massive showing at the New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series National Combine at Shelby Park in Nashville, one of the true premium hitters of the 2024 grad class is set to cap it off by suiting up for the White Team at the upcoming Main Event in Boston.
At Fenway Park.
That’s not a bad few months.
“It’s kind of crazy we get to have this experience,” Leininger said. “What kid hasn’t dreamed of suiting up in a real MLB park, (so) I’m sure it will seem surreal at first and then it’ll be a blast. The thing I’m looking forward to the most is getting back with the FSS crew, coaches and players.”
The six-foot-two, 220-pound Texas native has been a true FSS success story, emerging from relative anonymity at the 2021 Dallas Regional Combine to earn his way to essentially every signature event he’s been eligible for ever since. It’s an experience that’s been very meaningful to him over the past three years, with getting to Fenway far more than just another event.
“My experience with FSS has been extremely positive,” he said. “If I only got to do one event per year, this is the one I want mainly because it’s such a great opportunity to get better. What separates it from other events is the instructional aspect (on-field coaching) and the scouting reports. They tell us the truth, good or bad and that’s useful. It’s what we need and what we want. The coaches — all of them — are very positive and have really good energy; it kind of rubs off on us. It’s a really fun and loose event but it has the intensity of a playoff game. Players want to bring it.”
As much as that’s because Leininger wants to show who he is — especially at Fenway, where he is excited “to hang out and compete against the best in the US, Canada and Latin America” — in his case, it’s also because of the special bond he’s built with the Future Stars Series staff.
“Everyone on the staff has been so good to me over the years, I can’t wait to spend more time with them and then leave a better ball player. Jeremy (Booth), Chris (Capozzi), Anthony (Granato), (Jose) Silva, (Stephen) Randolph, I could go on…but they’re all really cool. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with the NBFSS staff. It’s kind of hard to put in words but it’s like, they see it in you before you see it in yourself. Belief that propels you forward. Especially when you’re young and don’t have a clue what level of ball player you are today or what you could be.”
— New Balance 𝗙𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀 (@ftrstarsseries) July 5, 2023
The scouting staff certainly sees what he could be.
“Really like this kid” is what leads off one of his most recent evaluations, with FSS scouts seeing four average or above tools and even then say he moves well for his size, with his “off the charts” makeup just the tip of the iceberg for the intangibles he brings past his skills on the diamond.
With that said, Leininger has been working on his speed and agility since Nashville, focusing on explosiveness and movement patterns. And, even though his hit tool has always been, as he says, a “constant,” he’s been taking some of what he learned in Nashville to apply it towards putting on a big showing on the big stage of Boston.
In addition, he’s also been working extensively with his coaches within the GPS Baseball program.
“Since Nashville, I’ve been working hard with my GPS hitting instructors; Gavin Wright and Ryan Langerhans. That sounds like it’s new but it’s not, I’ve been hitting with them for four years. Both really understand hitting fundamentals and have sharp eyes so I get quality feedback right away. I know they’re really good because I had a great foundation laid by Anthony Granato and John Quintell in California. They taught me so much. Gavin has been an absolute rock for me. He believed in me from the first time we met and he’s never come off of it. Most people think Gavin is a hitting Coach, they have no idea how big his heart is. He’s always been there to pick me up if I have a crappy game, say good things when I need it, make me laugh when I’m getting frustrated in the cage, and give good advice. I listen to what he says because I’ve learned, he’s usually right. The human part, he gets that. The first time I met him and Puff to see about joining GPS, we didn’t even talk about baseball much. They got to know me as a person first.
“Over time, that group of guys at GPS helped me mature as a person first and when I got that piece in place the rest, the baseball development became easier. I grew faster. These guys that played the game professionally, they have good advice, it just depends on if you want to listen…this summer I played for Brandon Puffer. Learned a lot about the mental side of the game from him. Concepts like having simple thought patterns, trusting our talent, competing our tails off. Things we’ve all heard before but he says it with strong intent and it resonates. Very grateful to the guys that helped me, I really am. The simple way to say it is; I’ve been blessed. There have been a lot of good men who have helped me along the way in my journey. They love the game of baseball, and so do I. ”
That good advice hasn’t stopped there, however, as Booth, a long-time former player who also serves as the company’s president and CEO, has also worked extensively with Leininger.
“Jeremy and I talked about the concept of contact point, where you need to see it in your mind when you’re trying to do damage; you don’t picture in your mind where you actually contact it, there’s an adjustment or compensation you have to make for the speed of the game,” Leininger said. “That helped me be more successful later in the summer. Overall takeaway; he wants the best for us, expects us to be great. I do want to say thanks for taking the time to be a mentor. Anthony is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He’s very articulate and a really good communicator. He explains the fundamentals, why we do things a certain way. There’s more and from other coaches but I can’t detail it all and go full baseball nerd on you…the scouting report gives us feedback on where we are today and direction on which things need more work. I really value those.”
Leininger can’t write the reports that the seemingly countless amount of big-league scouts and execs who are expected to be in attendance in Boston will be turning in.
What would it say if he could?
“That I play the game with power and move really well for a big dude,” he said. “(But) honestly, I don’t think about it much. My main focus will be on the instruction, the games, soaking up the experience…for me, it’s all about getting better. I could care less about going to an event to get ranked, I know I’m good but I also know that I need to spend my time working on fundamentals to get better. That’s why I really don’t go to showcase events. I get invited but don’t go because there’s no real way to get better while you’re there. I feel like I have so much more to learn and can get so much better if I keep working. I try to be process oriented now. when I was younger I was results oriented and that was a rollercoaster ride. It’s not the right way to do it. Baseball is a hard game but I think I’ll be really good one day, if I keep working at it, consistently, over a long period of time. My dad says, ‘Everybody likes the idea of being good, few like doing the work it requires.’ We talk about playing the long game. Prepare and put in work like you’re already at the next level. Try to get a little bit better than you were yesterday.”
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