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Baseball player of the year: Ryan Warner, Pine Creek
By nature, Ryan Warner stared down at his competition. At 6-foot-7 — and on a mound — Warner couldn’t help but seem larger than life to the typical high school hitter.
“The first thing batters say after facing me is how intimidating I look with how tall I am,” Warner said. “When I’m reaching out to throw, I’m closer than most guys. I definitely think it looks faster than it is.”
Constant rumors that he would be drafted only added to his mystique. And those proved true Tuesday, as the Colorado Rockies picked the right-hander in the supplemental portion of the third round and both sides instantly agreed to terms on a $363,700 signing bonus. Warner will abandon a scholarship offer to North Carolina State and get his first assignment from the Rockies in the coming days.
Despite his intimidating stature and dominating stats, Warner didn’t take anything for granted at Pine Creek. Players and coaches certainly won’t forget his influence in helping lead the Eagles to their third consecutive 5A state tournament, but his humility might be his greatest attribute.
“We’ve been friends since our freshman year, and the thing I love about him is his attitude and how humble he is,” Liberty catcher and Oklahoma State signee Brent Williams said. “He didn’t brag, but he could have. He shuts them up or shuts them down with a strikeout. Most of all, he just went out there and did his job.”
Warner expected great things from his senior season. With his continued physical growth and further development as a pitcher, he knew he had the tools to dominate.
Then he did just that.
“You could see him getting better and better,” said Pine Creek coach Glenn Millhauser, who coached Warner since his sophomore year. “He had the height, the angle and had a good, live arm even then. When I saw how well his ball moved, I knew he was going to be hard to hit just by watching him.”
Warner put it all together in 2012, just as Millhauser predicted.
He went 7-1, posted a 2.18 ERA with nearly two strikeouts per inning, mixing his high-80s fastball, knee-buckling curveball and devastating change-up.
“It’s a great tool to have,” said Warner, alluding to his fastball and coveted three-pitch arsenal. “It’s nice to know that I could throw almost anything, even on my worst day, and get most people out.”
Warner struck out 89 of the 221 batters he faced this season, and of the few who put the ball in play, only 29 managed to hit safely.
Warner’s size and strength also benefited him as a hitter. He hit .493, including 18 of his 34 hits going for extra bases with 32 runs scored.
“What’s deceiving about his size is that he’s still very thin,” Millhauser said. “He’s very strong, has incredible bat speed and is very fast. It was nice having him on our side. I wish I could keep him forever.”
Millhauser isn’t the only Pine Creek coach who will lose Warner’s services. He was also the quarterback for Todd Miller’s football team, guiding the Eagles to their first berth in the 4A state championship game this past season.
He’s now the property of the Rockies, as the combination of the high draft spot, the six-figure bonus and the chance fulfill his dream so close to home made for the perfect scenario.
But those attributes that helped him get to this point will not be going away as he steps on a stage that will appear larger-than life even to a person of his stature.
“Sports made me competitive, and that’s going to help me in the real world, whatever I’m doing,” Warner said. “My goal is to play in the majors. I definitely want to stay around baseball.”