North Mecklenburg's Ryder Ryan can't even drive himself to and from baseball practice, but the 15-year-old has already proven that he can drive the baseball with some of the best players in the area.
Ryan, a freshman, is hitting .409 along with a team- and I-Meck-best eight home runs as the Vikings' clean-up hitter.
Ryan admits he didn't expect to make a big impact on the team his first year.
"I had no idea that I would be able to play this good this fast," said Ryan. "I just went out for the team and gave it my all and things have turned out good so far."
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North Meck baseball coach Trevin Smith said Ryan's performance has a lot to do with his technique.
"I've been around baseball for a long time, both college and high school, and he has one of the best swings I have ever seen," said Smith. "I think big things are ahead for him."
Ryan has had a lot time to learn that, having played baseball since the time he could walk.
The third baseman was also lucky to learn the sport from a former professional player, his father, Sean, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1990 and played in the organization for six years.
"My dad has been a huge part of my game ever since I played T-ball," said the 6-foot-2, 195 pounder. "I've learned almost everything I know from him. I continue to learn new things as I keep playing the game."
Sean Ryan says sharing time and baseball with his son has been a special experience.
"Getting to watch him grow into the game and helping him along the way has given us a lot of great times," he said. "It's a very special thing for a father and son to do together."
Ryan used his baseball skills from nearly the day he stepped on the North Meck baseball field, hitting two home runs and driving in five runs in only his second game in a Viking uniform against Mooresville.
Ryan has followed that up with two home run performances against Mallard Creek and West Charlotte, as well as a grand slam against Jay M. Robinson.
"I knew he was a legitimate varsity talent from day one," said Smith. "It's still early and he is still very young, but he has shown he has all the tools to be a great player. His future is very bright."
Smith said he's been impressed by Ryan's bat.
"Power like this is something you usually don't see in high school," Smith said. "For him to be doing this as a freshman is rare."
Aside from work and dedication, Ryan's talent may have something to do with his genes.
His father isn't the only former professional baseball player in the family. Ryder's uncle, Jason Ryan, pitched for seven different MLB organizations, while his grandfather, Tim Ryan, was a member of the Dodgers and Braves in the mid 1960s. His great grandfather, James Ryan, played for the New York Yankees and Newark Bears in the 1950s while Ryan's great uncle, Ed Madjeski, played for three different pro teams in the mid 1930s.
Ryan has helped his Vikings to a 11-6, 8-4 I-Meck record (as of April 22). The Vikings are amongst the top teams in the conference going into the final week of the regular season.
North Meck is fourth in the I-Meck, which would be enough to earn the Vikings a playoff berth.
"We've been through our ups and downs this season, but we are starting to play good baseball," said Smith. "Now, we are just hoping to peak at the right time."
Ryan, who is also 2-1 as a relief pitcher in five appearances for the Vikings, will be a big part of how far North Meck can go. He will have help from an experienced North Meck lineup that also includes senior shortstop Anthony Dimino and senior pitcher Paul Leonard.
Ryan has had a good season, but he's keeping that in perspective, knowing that he still has a long way to go, even at the high school level.
"Right now, I just want to be play baseball because I love everything about it," Ryan said.
"I want to play at the highest level that I can. I will work as hard as I can to get there."