Future Stars Series alum, Yankees prospect Roc Riggio takes unique perspective to pro ball

April 23, 2024

WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. — Roc Riggio is a young man who clearly has his priorities in order.

It’s about a half hour after the Hudson Valley Renegades game has ended on a brisk Saturday night, and the 21-year-old had yet to make his way to the freshly renovated — and warm — home clubhouse at Heritage Financial Park, having taken the time to go down the third base line and sign autographs and pose for photos with any fan who asked.

There was an interview request mixed in there as well, one in which the Tarzana, Cali. native made it clear that all glory for the success in his chosen path goes to God.

There’s also praise for the military; when Riggio finds out that the writer’s father served in the Army and fought in Vietnam, he makes sure to send along his thanks for his service and share that if things had been maybe gone differently, that could have been a path he took as well.

It’s clear that he’s grateful for his path both in life and the game, and both of those courses have taken some twists and turns since we last saw him in 2020, when he was one of the faces of that year’s National Combine in Lake Charles and then starred at International Week in Fenway Park, where he smacked an RBI double off of otherwise dominant Anthony Solometo.

Asked to reflect back on his time on the travel ball circuit, where he was a “big name” at the time who had been through USA Baseball and numerous other stops, his first thought went to New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series president and CEO Jeremy Booth, who had helped mentor Riggio on his way up.

“Really the first memory I have is with Jeremy Booth,” Riggio told FSS Plus. “He was great to me, and he was great to all of us players there too. He was one of the guys that had a lot in faith in me, Mr. Booth, so lots of credit to him. He believed in me, and that helped me play throughout that, but that whole experience was awesome. It was really fun, and I met a lot of really awesome people, and I got to play at Fenway Park, got a hit at Fenway Park. I really just enjoyed my time there. I was dealing with a shoulder injury at the time, but I was still able to play and enjoy my time there, and I’m ecstatic that it helped lead me to where I am now.”

Riggio’s overall path in travel ball helped him prepare for what he was set to face at the next levels, first in college baseball with Oklahoma State, and then with the New York Yankees organization, who took him in the fourth round of last year’s MLB Draft.

“It’s hard to really emulate the next level and what the next level really has to offer, but definitely seeing some of the best arms and playing some of the best competition, it definitely gives you a glimpse of what it looks like,” he said. “It moreso gave me realization that I can do this. I’d been facing the best arms and I’d been playing at a high level and at the highest stage, and this is something that I’m made for. It’s something that I’m still learning how to control and how to react to everything, and how to keep my body in a good spot for playing 130-something games. So, those experiences were by far the best experiences I’ve had, and without them, it would be hard to say if I’d be here or not right now. I’m really grateful for all those.”

That was, of course, his second time through the Draft process. He seemed like a lock to be a high pick as a prep infielder but ended up going in the 11th round to the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2021.

As is the case with many players who come up through the amateur circuit, plans and reality don’t always mesh, and Riggio reflected back on that experience, saying playing professionally straight out of high school was always “the first thought.”

“Out of high school, I thought it was a no-brainer I was going to get drafted, a no-brainer I was going to go early, and I was going to go play professional baseball out of high school,” he said.

“I thought I could do it, I knew I could do it, and then the Draft came around and it didn’t go the way I thought it was going to go. It was really one of the toughest decisions I’ve made, not going to play baseball out of high school, because that was the hype and that was what I was projected to do. I was looking at all the projections and the guys in front of me, and kind of just worrying about the things that I couldn’t control. That put me in a tough situation, because college was something I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to go to college, I didn’t want to do school, I just wanted to play baseball. But that led me to Oklahoma State, where I played for Josh Holliday and the staff over there, and that was the best experience of my life. If I were to go back and do it again, and I was a higher draft pick, with the knowledge I have now, I’d still go back to college. I loved that program, I loved that atmosphere and that town and those people out there. It was an honor to play on that field and represent the Cowboys and Oklahoma State.”

Riggio starred for two years in college ball, ultimately betting on himself and winning in elevating his stock for the next time through the process. He’s made a quick impact in pinstripes, already making his way to High-A level and creating a play-of-the-year type moment in ranging well into the grass from shortstop to make a diving catch with a toss from his back to complete one of the more acrobatic double plays you’ll ever see. Follow that up with his first professional home run a few days later, and it’s been one heck of a week for Riggio.

Not too high, not too low, though. This is all part of the process of his development, and he’s enjoying the ride. Particularly the home run, as he knows there’s plenty more to come as he continues his ascent to one day play in the Bronx.

“It felt good to get one out of the way,” Riggio said with a smile. “I’m a professional now, so I know those are going to come, so it’s just something I’m used to now and it’s part of my game.”

Mike Ashmore
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