A tireless work ethic and aggressive style of play have made Highline senior Ryan Brett one of the state's best ballplayers and a prime pro prospect.
BURIEN — The first time Ryan Brett swung a bat for Highline High School, it was a typically soggy spring Seattle day. With puddles scattered around the infield, the Pirates were forced to take batting practice out in right field.
Coach Dave Larson left his truck parked in the lot behind the third-base dugout. He figured it was impossible for a ball to hit his truck from deep right field.
Then Brett took his cuts.
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“He hit my truck,” Larson said.
Only a freshman, Brett crushed that muddy, waterlogged ball. Even then, Larson knew he had something special.
Now, as the senior prepares for his final season of high-school baseball, Brett has grown into one of the top prospects in the state.
“I’ve been coaching for more than 30 years,” Larson said. “I’ve never had anyone like Ryan.”
Baseball suits the personality of the reigning Seamount League MVP.
“I’m just really aggressive,” Brett said. “I like to get on base, steal bases and cause havoc for other teams, have them worrying about me instead of the hitter at the plate.”
“He’s never backed off,” Larson said. “He won’t do anything without pouring every ounce of strength and speed he has into it. He has plenty of that. He’s a five-tool guy.”
When the 5-foot-9, 180-pound utility player — he plays shortstop and hits leadoff — isn’t playing baseball, he’s working on his game. He hits the cages at RIPS Baseball Training Complex in Burien at least four days a week. He’s one of those first-guy-on-the-field, last-one-off players.
While watching Brett go through his offseason training routine — showcase tournaments, cage sessions and weight training — Larson asked the senior if he ever gets burned out.
“No. No. Can’t wait,” Brett told his coach.
Last year, Brett’s play caused D-I college coaches up and down the West Coast to start burning up Larson’s cellphone minutes. Brett committed to Gonzaga, but this year, coaches have been replaced at Highline games by professional scouts.
At a recent game, Larson counted 50 scouts in the stands with stopwatches, Jugs guns and video cameras. At one practice, they showed up just to watch him run the 60-yard dash.
“Seeing all these scouts here this year, I just try to keep myself relaxed and just try to hit the ball hard,” said Brett, who is hitting .667 with two home runs, five doubles, 11 stolen bases and nine runs batted in through six games.
Now, like his Washington Brewers summer-ball teammate Josh Sale (Bishop Blanchet), Brett faces a tough decision: Go to Gonzaga or start his professional career.
All that depends on where he gets selected in the June draft.
“I know school would be a great choice, because I signed a letter of intent with Gonzaga and it’s a really great school,” Brett said. “But I want to play ball. That’s what I would love to do. That’s what I want to do. If I can get drafted pretty high, with the right amount of money, I’d love to go.”
Before the draft, though, there is a high-school season to finish. Brett has been playing with many of his teammates since Little League and he wants to help his team get past the Class 3A quarterfinals.
“It’s just something I’m enjoying right now, because this is my last year of high-school ball,” Brett said. “I really want to help my team make it somewhere; hopefully make it to the final four.”
Because of his work ethic, his Highline teammates follow his example. As long as Luke Werle can remember, Brett has been the guy who keeps the Pirates working to get better.
“All of us can remember being little and watching him put in all the time in the world during Little League, while a lot of us were just screwing around and having fun,” Werle said.
Even now, there are days when it’s raining and the first thought of many Pirates players is, “Let’s get inside.” But on those days, Brett is usually in the batting cage. While his teammates are changing, he is working.
Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or email@example.com