Ryan Weaver fondly recalls his first pitching performance at Duffy Bass Field in Normal in the summer of 2019.
The Cary-Grove left-hander was heading into his junior year and threw a gem for his Pro Player Hurricanes 16U travel team to beat the White Sox Elite team in an event sponsored by Prep Baseball Report.
That will not be Weaver’s last appearance in Illinois State University’s baseball stadium. Weaver announced his commitment to the Redbirds via Twitter Sunday afternoon and can sign with head coach Steve Holm’s team in November.
“(ISU) was the most successful program out of my top three (colleges),” Weaver said. “They got an at-large bid to the (2019 NCAA) tournament. It’s 2 1/2 hours from my house. My parents (Jim and Laura) and I talked a lot and we were like, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ I love the campus itself. Their facility is awesome. The business education is super-strong there.”
Weaver was a starter for C-G in 2019 as a sophomore, going 1-4 with a 3.82 ERA, a 1.303 WHIP and 44 strikeouts with 16 walks in 33 innings. Weaver (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) increased his velocity over the last year and said he consistently hits 85-87 mph on speed guns and has topped out at 88.
Illinois State finished 36-26 overall in 2019 and was 14-7 in the Missouri Valley Conference to tie for the title. The Redbirds made the NCAA Tournament and fell to Louisville in the NCAA Regional final. The Cardinals advanced to the College World Series.
“My (velocity) wasn’t Division I caliber at that time yet (in the summer of 2019),” Weaver said. “(Illinois State) saw more my pitch ability to get outs. It elevated my recruitment when I took up my fastball. I’m not going to blow the ball by anybody. It’s my movement and ability to change speeds back and forth. I throw about 40-50% fastballs, my changeup is my next pitch. You could refer to that as my “out” pitch.
Weaver had Butler and Western Michigan as his other two final schools.
“It’s fantastic I’m so happy for the kid,” C-G coach Ryan Passaglia said. “He’s worked so hard and this is something he’s always wanted. He certainly has the work ethic for it and the talent is there as well. With this whole COVID-19 situation, everything was up in the air, especially for the Class of 2021. He had some good showing at games and ISU came through the last week or so. It’s a good fit for him.”
Weaver was uncertain what would happen with recruiting because of the coronavirus pandemic. He made the most of his summer opportunities to grab coaches’ attention. He credits Pro Player coach Nick Matsie for scheduling tough competition for the ‘Canes, which helped him get noticed.
Weaver, who also was a standout player on C-G’s 31-3 basketball team, also had a chance to play with a Chicago Scouts Association team in the fall of 2019. He said that was the year he realized he could make it at the D-I level.
C-G won a Class 4A regional championship in 2019 and Weaver was the No. 3 starter behind Quinn Priester and Jack Wenninger. Priester was the No. 18 overall pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft that June, while Wenninger, a 2020 C-G graduate, is at D-I Murray State.
“It was an ongoing discussion in bullpens (with that staff),” Weaver said. “How to use this pitch, how to use your breaking ball and things like that. Hitter to hitter, once we reached the playoffs, we talked a lot about how to get people out.”
Passaglia likes Weaver’s mental attitude as much as his physical abilities.
“He’s so competitive on the mound,” Passaglia said. “When you have a kid with that competitive nature, that’s half the battle. If he's’s got the stuff to go with it, now you have somebody really special. His stuff is really coming along. He’s moving in the right direction.”