Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl. Yawn.
FOR DUMFRIES NATIVE Anthony Ragos, whichever team wins the upcoming, frigid contest in New York is the last thing on his mind.
Ceaseless updates, too many to count, and compelling features sizing up the Big Game are powerless in their attempts to capture the unapologetic interest of this young man. Whether he’s munching on sushi rolls by himself at the Japanese restaurant I serve at or being inspired by Roberto Clemente’s biography, the recent Davis and Elkins College graduate is following a stricter-than-usual, six-second distance rule from the distractions that could veer his chances from reaching the ultimate destination.
Ragos’ dream, as astronomical as the vision sounds for some, is to sign a deal with an independent minor league baseball squad by the conclusion of the Florida Minor League Training Camp being held from February 1-13 down in St. Petersburg.
“I’m excited for this opportunity,” he smiled, admitting, “Everything I do is geared towards baseball … from eating, lifting, reading. I never had a Plan B.”
Undaunted by the idea of failure, Ragos believes this is the year he’ll sign the dotted line after a series of rejections. It took a while to control his emotions but he now extinguishes the fire-packed questions concerning the disadvantages that come packaged with his 5-foot-6 frame. Doubters kindle his drive. Nothing stirs up his fury more than the demeaning words, “you’re not tall enough.”
So Ragos decided that he’ll shut the world out, and do what he does best. Ball out. He possesses a medley of intangibles no man-made monitoring equipment can detect. Ragos’ competitive nature and undervalued athleticism is something scouts miscalculated for years. His niche — stealing bases — has been lost on potential buyers. Who doesn’t want a player with an impressive, blazing 6.6 second 60-yard dash sprint? That speed put him on the map, ranking 8th in the nation in 2010 with 40 stolen bases. The jets on Ragos’ cleats broke Chesapeake Junior College’s record of 38, registered by Brad Brainer during the 2007 spring season.
“Height shouldn’t be a factor when a player is putting up the numbers that they’re [scouts] looking for,” Ragos told me. “I’m producing, and I want them to notice my work ethic.”
More times than not, work ethic will cover the spread. Desirable traits – willingness to learn, determination to get better, humility – trump statistics. Numbers don’t lie, so after graduating from Davis and Elkins in West Virginia, Ragos beefed up, gaining 15 pounds of pure muscle to get the managers to take notice.
His message is simple, “I respect that the doubters don’t know yet.”
Ragos is grateful after realizing that all his flaws of the past served as stepping stones for his journey. Throughout the adversities, he never lost hope, which is a challenge in itself. He recalls being depressed for a while, after suffering a vicious thumb injury and a herniated disc. He contemplated the decision to enlist into the army, and is glad that he talked himself out of quitting baseball. Ragos has no intentions of throwing in the towel. After failed tryouts with the Royals and the Braves, he’s gained much more confidence from those experiences – invaluable self-assurance that will give him the upper-hand in St. Petersburg.
Ragos also spent some time reconstructing himself off the field as he has in a uniform. He and his friend John Commins started the Hits for Hunger fund raiser at Elkins after being moved by the poignant narrative of Roberto Clemente, a Hall of Fame baseball player who volunteered his love and efforts towards charitable causes in Puerto Rico. Ragos someday hopes to hoist the Roberto Clemente award, given to an MLB player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
That would be something else for Ragos, whose love for the game goes so far back he can’t recall their first meeting.
“I can still remember it, I don’t know how old I was, I just remember watching a game on TV and telling my parents I want to do that.”
Their response drives him to his day. His mother told him to work hard at it.
With tremendous support from his parents and both his older sisters, Anthony Ragos hopes all his hard work will result in him taking his final swings … as a free agent.