Day to Remember: Thomas Heyward senior Ryan Day is area baseball player of the year

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comJune 16, 2013 

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Thomas Heyward Academy graduate Ryan Day is shown here Thursday afternoon in Beaufort. Day is The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver Buy Photo

Ryan Day might not fill the mold of the standout athlete.

His size and on-field demeanor don't overwhelm. He passed on playing college sports to focus on what he knows will be a grueling undergraduate major at Clemson.

He speaks of his orthopedic surgeon like some talk of LeBron James. He attended Thomas Heyward Academy all 14 years and never missed a day, nor was he ever late, despite the hour-long drive to Ridgeland from his home on St. Helena.

Day's dreams extend beyond sports, but the same commitment he shows his academics and goal of medical school could be found in his athletic performance for the Rebels.

His final high school baseball season brought Thomas Heyward to the brink of its first baseball state championship.

He batted .425 and drove in 30 runs. As a pitcher, he won seven games, struck out 77 batters and his 1.49 ERA was lowest in SCISAA Class 2-A.

The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet All-Area Baseball Player of the Year skipped a Bahamas cruise with his senior teammates to play for a the Class 2-A state title. The Rebels fell to Holly Hill Academy in the final game of the best-of-three-series.

"I'm glad I stayed, though," Day said. "So were all the other guys, I think."

The school rewarded the boys with their own trip at the end of July. That cruise and a trip to Seattle to visit family are the only concrete plans for Day's summer. He doesn't have to worry about football workouts or summer baseball, instead choosing to work at Fripp Island running golf carts and picking balls off the driving range.

Times have rarely been this light for Day.

He and his dad started at a young age hitting in batting cages each weekend. He wrestled for years, although he didn't particularly enjoy it. He works out regularly, an outlet to relieve stress he expects will continue long after he is done playing sports.

For his baseball, Day found mentors willing to match his work ethic.

Beaufort High School coach Scott Mullen, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, was coaching a youth team when he first began offering Day pitching pointers. He worked with Day through his junior year of high school, telling him to do all his work over the mound, to align over the rubber and allow everything to separate at once in the delivery.

Thomas Heyward coach Nic Shuford helped Day's hitting, staying before and after practice to observe and help eliminate any issues -- which usually involved dragging the top hand through the zone or timing on his plant foot. And then there were the cage sessions with his dad, Nathan, the longtime Battery Creek High School wrestling coach.

A series of college football camps the summer before his senior year turned Day off to competing in college, the time commitment determined to be too much weighed with the academics.

Day left open the possibility of walking on to a team at Clemson, but only if he finds himself with free time after his freshman year. His path to a possible career in pediatric orthopedics began with Dr. Mark Dean, the Beaufort surgeon who operated on Day's finger and collarbone.

Day visited Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville, saw the work being done there and knew what he wanted.

"I think everybody has a purpose in life," Day said. "I think mine is helping children be able to walk."

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