By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Moving away from home to start university can be a turbulent time for many teenagers, but not for Ryley Davenport.
The Oshawa native started his time at Wilfrid Laurier University by making waves both behind and at the plate with the men’s baseball team and snagging the title of Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Rookie of the Year.
“I’m quite happy with myself that I was able to do that coming out of the gate,” Davenport says. “I know, university, you’ve got to prove yourself if you want to play because you’ve got all the older players that have been there a while and know the coach.”
Appearing in 11 games with the club, Davenport helped his team to a 14-4 regular season record, one of the best in Laurier baseball history. At the plate, Davenport tallied one home run and 11 runs batted in.
As catcher behind the plate, Davenport was part of a pitching staff that finished third in the OUA with a 3.93 earned run average (ERA).
“I was fortunate to come in. We had a lot of older pitchers, fourth and fifth years, that have obviously been experienced in OUA baseball and kind of knew what was going on,” Davenport says.
Davenport also credits his entire team with the success he saw this season.
“Just overall, we had a very good lineup. Everybody contributed to the wins. There was no real person that stood out and carried the whole team – we all had to perform to win.”
The R.S. McLaughlin alum has been playing ball from the young age of four. Starting off with T-ball, Davenport progressed to the Oshawa Legionnaires rookie rep team at the age of six, then to the Ontario Prospects after turning 11 and finally the Toronto Mets last season before moving off to school.
Davenport first set up shop behind the plate with the Prospects, a position he’s enjoyed ever since. However, it’s one that carries quite a bit of responsibility on the field.
“Every call we make, you’ve got to think through what is going to happen. For me, I’m looking at players’ swings with every pitch that’s thrown, if they’re late on it or early…I have to be one of the leaders on the field and I try to do that,” he says.
Keeping track of his progress is also a key part of Davenport’s success. Along with talking with the pitching staff after each inning, Davenport tracks his progress in a notebook he keeps at home.
“I like to kind of keep notes on what improvements I needed to make in certain at-bats and what I did wrong so the next time that opportunity comes up, I can remember not to do that,” he says.
His baseball notebook isn’t the only notebook Davenport has been using this year either, working through his junior year in Laurier’s computer sciences program.
It’s been a delicate balancing act, Davenport says. With baseball six nights a week, it’s been a task to keep on top of assignments, but it’s something he says he’s been successful at.
“(It was) a little tough at the beginning, but I’m settled in now and it’s been real good,” he says. “I have to carefully plan out my week and see when things need to be done, know when things are due to keep on top of stuff.”
Looking ahead, Davenport says he doesn’t know what his future holds, but regardless, he says he’ll never stop playing baseball.
“I’ll be playing somewhere when I’m done university, but whether it’s somewhere professional or something, it’s up to how I do the next few years.”