A dream doesn’t always remain a dream. There are times things someone believed would only exist through their imagination actually become a reality. One of Patrick Riehl’s dreams became a reality late Saturday afternoon, June 11, 2016, when the Cincinnati Reds selected him in the 26th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball (MLB) Amateur Draft, also known as the First Year Player Draft.
A day after gathering with friends and family to watch the MLB Draft, Riehl got a phone call from his agent telling him he was about to be drafted.
“I got a call from Joe (Bick), my agent two picks before I was taken,” Riehl said. “The (St. Louis) Cardinals had the very last pick of the 25th round and he called me and was yelling in the phone, ‘you’re about to get drafted right now.’”
Riehl said he was speechless for a moment before asking his agent what was just said.
“He told me the Cincinnati Reds were about to take me,” Riehl said.
By the time Riehl was able to hang up, his name was being announced as Cincinnati’s pick right as his father’s iPad popped up with a notification saying Riehl had been selected.
“Everybody went nuts, it was crazy,” Riehl said. “It was a cool feeling, hearing your name called.”
Two dreams actually became reality for Riehl that Saturday afternoon. Not only had he been drafted by an MLB team, but he was drafted by his favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds.
“It was a dream come true, to be a Cincinnati Red, hopefully one day playing in Great American Ball Park,” Riehl said. “Ever since I knew what baseball was, I was a Cincinnati Reds fan. That feeling is so special to me.”
Riehl said he couldn’t fully describe what he was feeling knowing the team he had been a die-hard fan of, had selected him in the draft.
“This is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid,” Riehl said. “It just makes it that much more special to be drafted by the team you’ve rooted for your entire life.”
Only a handful of minutes had gone by, before Riehl received his first assignment from his new organization. Riehl’s former high school baseball coach and current scout for the Reds, Dean Schuler called his former player telling him to, “pack your bags, you’re going to Arizona.”
Riehl left for Goodyear, Arizona Sunday afternoon and is now at the organization’s Spring Training home. From Goodyear, Riehl will have a few possibilities for his immediate future. He will either stay in Goodyear or be shipped to Billings, Montana.
“They have two ‘Rookie Ball’ teams,” Riehl said. “Billings is advanced ‘Rookie Ball’ and Goodyear is their regular ‘Rookie Ball’. They’ll keep me there and playing most of the summer at one of those two places.”
Schuler was happy to see his former player get drafted and knew he would have a chance with whatever team took him.
“The biggest advantage Pat had was the progression he was making as a player and how his velocity had increased,” Schuler said. “He was probably (throwing) maybe 85 or 86 (miles per hour) as a senior in high school for us, but that wasn’t consistent.”
As Riehl was still years away from fully developing, Schuler knew the young right-hander would improve his game at the collegiate level.
“He is 6-foot-5-inches tall and weighed about 230 (lbs.),” Schuler said. “That’s a pro body. That was the big attraction to Patrick.”
After getting some college experience, Riehl began to rapidly improve his game. He took up yoga to improve his flexibility and began to take better care of his body by eating healthier, according to Schuler.
“He was more mind-conscious of taking care of his body and making it better,” Schuler said. “At the same time, being able to focus on just being a baseball player and being a pitcher, his game got better and better.”
Schuler noted Riehl’s work ethic will not be an issue, as the recently drafted Scioto County native had tremendous work habits at both the high school and collegiate levels.
“He’ll continue those work habits,” Schuler said.
Aside from having an impressive work ethic, Schuler also noted Riehl will show even more improvement as he will receive even better instruction and guidance in the professional level, surpassing anything he received in high school and college.
After recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Schuler was not surprised to see Riehl begin to throw harder than ever. Schuler likened the recovery to those recovering from Tommy John surgery, where pitchers will have to basically learn how to throw all over again, which will show an improvement in their mechanics, allowing them to throw at a higher velocity than they once thought was their max.
After recovering from surgery, Riehl began to hit the mid-90s.
When Riehl began hitting in the mid-90s, interest in him grew. Scouts began to take notice of him and he ultimately was invited to a Cincinnati Reds tryout.
“Because of his body scouts took an interest and it just escalated from there,” Schuler said. “I told him he needed to come throw in front of my bosses.”
Schuler said the tryout went well and after about eight pitches, the Reds had him come back the next day.
“Next thing you know he’s pitching in the stadium in front of everybody,” Schuler said. “The next day when he threw against some hitters and in the bullpen, they were able to see his breaking ball and change-up and everything and were impressed.”
The organization graded Riehl with a 65 for his arm with 55 being a marker for the major leagues. He was also graded overall by the Reds, who gave him a five out of an overall of eight.
“If you’re graded a five on an eight scale, then you’re in a good situation,” Schuler said.
To Schuler, it was a win-win situation for Riehl, as his former player not only impressed the Reds, but also had several other teams interested in what the young pitcher from southern Ohio had to offer.
“The neat thing about it now is he’s in Arizona and we’ll see what happens from there,” Schuler said. “Right now, he controls his own destiny.”
The former Lucasville Valley Indian immediately understood the hard work it would take to continue his dream.
“Right now, it’s just getting down there and getting with the guys in the organization,” Riehl said. “I’m going to start throwing and start working out with them and start a season here soon.”
As far as personal expectations, Riehl only had one at the moment.
“Hopefully I pitch well and they move me up,” Riehl finished with a laugh.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.