MANHATTAN, KS. (KSNT)- Just about every single young baseball player dreams of playing professionally. The goal, for so many aspiring pro athletes, is to make their sport their career.
Three K-State baseball players chose to put that dream on hold and instead return for one more year with the Wildcats.
Infielder Brady Day was drafted by the Atlanta Braves. Pitchers Owen Boerema and Ty Ruhl were both pro eligible and received offers from MLB organizations. These three ‘Cats will all be back in Tointon Family Stadium for the 2024 season.
The obvious question is simple: Why?
“It just speaks volumes to our culture,” K-State head baseball coach Pete Hughes said. “These guys believe in our culture. They’re bonded in our culture. More importantly they trust our support staff and our coaches to get them to a different level to improve their prospect status. But it begins and ends with culture and relationships and loyalty.”
Hughes says he always wants what is best for his players. His goal, for every player, is to help them reach the highest level of professional baseball they can. He says these three ‘Cats can use the extra year of college to develop their game and turn into even better prospects after next spring.
“I just trusted my coaches, I had a lot of long talks with my coaches,” Ruhl said. “I just wanted to come back and improve my draft stock a little bit.”
“A lot of [the reason I came back] has to with our culture,” Boerema said. “The staff, the team here, it makes guys want to come back. It makes transfers want to stay here.”
The decision to return for these players went beyond their own personal development. Another motivating factor was the sour ending to the 2023 season. K-State was one of the first four teams left out of the NCAA tournament. The ‘Cats felt like they deserved to get in.
“Just left kind of a bad taste in a lot our mouths I think,” Boerema said. “We all kind of decided we wanted this year to hopefully end on a better note… I think whether consciously or subconsciously it was definitely part of the decision [to come back.]”
“We think we did what we should’ve [to get into the tournament],” Ruhl said. “And I guess the people up top didn’t, so might as well come back and do it again.”
Additionally, there were K-State players who could’ve chased big money in the transfer portal. Pete Hughes says it’s not uncommon in the current era of college baseball for other schools to come after your best players.
“There’s a dark underbelly of college athletics with third-party involvement that are going to try to pick off your best players and try to get them into the portal,” Hughes said. “It’s out there. We lived it this spring and our kids refused to cave into it. They always sided with Kansas State baseball, the people who recruited them first, the people who developed them.”
Hughes says the reason none of his guys gave into the temptation of dollar bills starts and ends with relationships.
“With college baseball, and really college athletes now a days with the portal, you better have strong, consistent, genuine relationships with your players because [if not] those kids will leave,” Hughes said. “It’s about relationships.”
Hughes said he’s confident the players who stayed loyal to Kansas State, when pro ball or the portal was an option, will make their money when they do decide to move on to the next level.