Ryan Jean has stepped firmly into the rotation for West Orange after missing most of the 2017 season.
Ryan Jean, a senior pitcher for the West Orange Warriors who is committed to the University of North Florida, missed almost all of 2017 due to an illness. Back to work in 2018, the senior southpaw has emerged as the Warriors No. 2 starter behind Ole Miss signee Doug Nikhazy and has big wins to his credit against The Miller School (Va.) and Lake Minneola.
What’s it like to be playing again regularly after missing most of the 2017 season?
It’s great. I remember all of last year I was dying to play, but I couldn’t. That bothered me, but I’m ready to prove myself this year. It’s my last year and I just want to go out there and do the best I can.
How is the season going so far as this year’s senior class becoming leaders?
Last year, we had a lot of great guys that led us. Now, we have to step up. It’s taken some work, but I think we’re getting there and we’re teaching the younger guys how to just be a team.
Which outing so far are you most proud of?
A week ago, we played the Virginia state champs (The Miller School) and we did well. I didn’t give up any runs and we put it on them.
What did you work on during the offseason?
I’ve always had an iffy changeup, so I’ve tried to work on that. That’s really the one pitch that’s hit-or-miss, so I’m just trying to work to make that better.
Is there a former teammate that you look up to?
I looked up to Cole Beavin a lot. He was a big leader for our team last year. ... He’s all about his game and every little thing matters. (His work ethic) really opened my eyes.
Is there a professional pitcher you model yourself after?
I like Chris Sale. He’s a hard-throwing lefty and I try to model my game after his as best I can.
Is it helpful that the team’s new coach, Graig Smith, was your former J.V. coach?
It’s worked out really well. Ever since freshman year, we’ve had a good chemistry and we get along really well. He’s a great coach and I don’t think anyone else would be better right now for us.
Which games are you looking forward to the most?
I’m looking forward to Olympia and Lake Brantley, as well.
Do you have any friends who play for Olympia?
Jeslyn Whitehead, I used to play with him when I was 6 or 7. We’ve always been good friends.
If you could play in any stadium, which would you choose?
I think I would pitch at Fenway (Park). I’m a huge Red Sox fan — my whole family is.
Who has been your favorite teacher so far?
Mr. (James) Baker. He’s at Windermere High School now. He taught U.S. History (at West Orange) and that was my favorite class. He was excited to teach and made us want to learn.