News Story

NSU’s star pitcher selected in 2015 MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals

(Tahlequah, Okla.)-- Playing T-ball as a 5-year-old with his father and twin brother, Ryan Helsley always knew he wanted to play baseball as an adult.

“Growing up, on those little sheets we would get, I remember putting the answer ‘major league baseball player’ to the question what I wanted to be when I grow up.”

Now at 20 years old, Helsley’s dreams have come true; the St. Louis Cardinals picked him in the 2015 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft.

“It’s definitely awesome to say I finally did it. It’s always a great feeling to get to continue playing the sport that you love,” Helsley said.

With the 161st pick in the fifth round, the Cardinals selected the right-handed, 6-foot-1-inch pitcher, via a phone call on Tuesday, June 9.

“My mom was pulling up (in the driveway) when I got the call and I told her they (Cardinals) took me. It was a great moment to share with my parents.”

Helsley said he was speechless for a few seconds during the congratulatory phone call.

“There was a lot going through my mind; my career, college, moving on.”

He has lived in Tahlequah all his life, but feels ready to go off to play away from home.

“I definitely have to work harder now. Even though I got drafted, it’s not over. The hard work continues.”

This credo sets Helsley apart and makes him the perfect ambassador for NSU, says baseball coach Travis Janssen.

“Ryan is too good to be true. He works hard in everything he does, both baseball and schoolwork. There is a balance,” he explained, adding Helsley has a 3.5 GPA.

He said when Helsley joined the team as a freshman, he put in the work needed to develop his talent.

“We were the ones who were lucky enough to see him and recruit him. He blossomed in two years. He worked very hard, and it paid off,” Janssen said.

Helsley flew to the Cardinals spring training site in Florida four days after being selected, where he completed a physical and signed his contract. His next stop will be Johnson City, Tenn., where he will begin his career in the minor leagues.

While baseball is his passion, Helsley said he was prepared to return to NSU to complete his degree in health and human performance.

“I want to have my degree,” he said emphatically, adding radiology was another possible field, following in the footsteps of his mother.   

Helsley said it was a comfort to get to train and play in his hometown.

“NSU is like a town in a town. It has its own community. I’ve had a lot of fun playing and training here.”

He has been attending NSU baseball camps since childhood, and has seen the program develop and go “in the right direction.”

“I think it’s a good spot for kids out of high school to come. It’s a good town, baseball means a lot to them (coaches) and if student athletes are serious about it, I think it’s the perfect program to be a part of.”

While he is excited to start playing ball again, he reflected on NSU being like a second home.

“It’s really a fun place to be. I like it a lot. It’s not too big of a college; it’s the right size. It’s like a family.”

He also credited his coaches and teammates for seeing in him, what he could not see in himself.

“When I got here, I wasn’t really much of a pitcher at all. I wanted to play third and hit, but they saw my potential for pitching.”

News of Helsley’s draft selection swept campus, with students, staff and faculty showering him with words of encouragement and congratulations on all social media platforms.

“My phone was going off all day yesterday. Phone calls, texts, Twitter—it was a pretty crazy day.”

He said while almost everyone was happy for him, Janssen’s daughter, Avery, probably reacted the strongest.

“She loves the Cardinals. When she found out, she jumped up and down,” he said smiling.

Avery, 10, is hopeful her connection to the future star athlete will score her tickets to upcoming Cardinal games.

When asked about his fledgling celebrity status, Helsley quickly laughed off the notion, saying he has a lot more work to put in before even thinking about fame.

“Word definitely got around. I saw it in the newspaper. I think I’d have to make it a little bit farther in baseball to become famous,” he said earnestly.

Helsley has welcomed his new journey with humility and grace; expecting only to do the best he can.

“I want to give it a chance. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. It’s just what’s meant to be, you know? No hard feelings. I’m just excited to see where it goes.”

Published: 6/17/2015 2:54:45 PM

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