West Orange High alum Ryan Ashworth will be a senior this year for the Flagler College Saints, meaning this is his final summer ball go-round of a memorable career with the Winter Garden Squeeze.
Ryan Ashworth is almost certainly not going to be a professional baseball player — he’ll tell you that much, himself.
Undersized at 5-foot-10, the rising senior for Flagler College and multi-year returner for the Winter Garden Squeeze knows he doesn’t have the physical attributes or velocity that pro scouts look for in a pitching prospect.
Ashworth is not bothered by this, either.
It’s a reality the Ocoee native and West Orange High alum made peace with years ago, and he has, instead, chosen to soak up every moment of his final season with the Squeeze this summer and with the Saints next spring.
"Since I started college … I’ve had the harsh reality that someday baseball is going to be over me — and that realization is coming soon."
“I’m trying to have as much fun as I possibly can,” Ashworth said after tossing another gem for the Squeeze July 20 in Sanford. “Since I started college … I’ve had the harsh reality that someday baseball is going to be over me — and that realization is coming soon.”
Ashworth’s performance last Friday in a 12-3 win for the Squeeze against the Seminole County Scorpions was what Winter Garden coach Jay Welsh would boast as “classic Ashworth.” After allowing two runs early, the former West Orange Warrior settled in and followed that with seven scoreless innings.
“He’s amazing on the mound,” Welsh said. “His consistency, he works fast, holds runners and has a great off-speed pitch.”
Welsh has known his go-to pitcher since Ashworth was 10 years old at Windermere Little League and on the same all-stars team as his son, Ryan Welsh.
Perhaps that shared history was part of the reason that, when he pulled Ashworth with no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, he sent him over to third base instead of back to the dugout. Ashworth has not been a position player since Little League, so it was his first time on the field as a non-pitcher in years.
The baseball gods must have approved of the gesture, as the final out of the game was a ground ball to Ashworth at third base, which he fielded and tossed to first to end the game.
“That was probably my favorite (Florida League) memory — ending the game fielding a ground ball,” Ashworth said afterward. “It was the first time I’d played third base. We’d just joked around about it for years.”
When Welsh talks about Ashworth, he talks of a ballplayer whose passion and enthusiasm have taken him far.
“The main thing is, he loves the game — you can tell he’s very excited to be out there,” Welsh said. “(Ashworth) has done everything he can with his ability. He’s going to go down as a four-year college pitcher and a guy (who) earned his scholarship to play in college.”
The same self-awareness about his prospects beyond college baseball has informed the way Ashworth approaches the game on the mound — and it has done so to his benefit. Instead of trying to be a flashy pitcher who tallies tons of strikeouts, Ashworth has made a career of trusting his fielders behind him. He works quickly on the mound, hits his spots and purposefully pitches to contact.
“That’s kind of my approach — I learned that when I got to college,” Ashworth said. “I’ve made my bread-and-butter off just pitching to contact and throwing to guys to get them to pop out or ground out.”
"I’ve made my bread-and-butter off just pitching to contact and throwing to guys to get them to pop out or ground out."
His pitching philosophy paired with his even-keeled demeanor have made for a remarkably consistent — and impressive — career. In three seasons for the Squeeze, Ashworth has a 3.36 ERA and nine wins to his credit. At Flagler College, he had a 4.96 ERA last spring after throwing 81.2 innings and was named the school’s Total Package Award recipient for the spring season, recognizing his excellence on and off the field.
The knowledge his baseball career likely will not extend beyond next spring with the Saints could have meant that Ashworth would forego his final season with the Florida League, but Ashworth said he was excited to take one more go-round in orange and blue — and with Welsh as his coach.
“There’s nobody I’d rather play for in the entire world,” Ashworth said. “My (college) coach came to me at the end of my spring season and said, ‘Do you want to play summer ball?’ I said, ‘Yes, I want to play for Coach Welsh.’”
Perhaps one of the main reasons Ashworth is handling the end of his baseball career in stride is he is eager for the next chapter of his life. The Ocoee native is majoring in media production/broadcast journalism at Flagler and minoring in advertising.
Much the same as he once had goals such as making a college baseball team — goals he accomplished — his new goals are geared toward what is next. Ashworth said he wants to start a creative media company and dabble in sports broadcasting. Most of all, his dream is to one day make a feature film.
Although he wants to soak up the baseball he has left, this West Orange product is also eager to bring that same winning mentality from the diamond to the real world.
“It’s honestly extremely exciting,” Ashworth said. “I have a lot of goals, and I’ve set my goals really high.”