Odds are, a child picking up a baseball, mitt and bat will never play in the major leagues. Despite the odds being stacked against each and every individual child making it to “The Show”, they all continue to dream. They imagine playing in game seven of the World Series. Some may dream of being a hitter in the bottom of the ninth facing a full count with two outs, while others imagine being the pitcher, wiping away sweat from his brow and wondering what pitch to throw in hopes of clinching a world championship.
For Patrick Riehl, that dream may be one step closer to reality.
The former Lucasville Valley Indian pitcher patiently awaits what his future in baseball will be, surrounded by his parents, other family members and friends, as they gathered at The Mill Tavern in Portsmouth, Ohio, Friday, June 10, 2016.
“It’s just very exciting right now,” Riehl said as he took pauses to look at the television screen displaying the MLB 2016 Amateur Draft, also known as the First Year Player Draft. “Just being with everybody and waiting to see what happens, but it’s just really exciting. That’s the main thing right now, just pure excitement, it’s electric.”
Riehl was happy to be back home to spend time with his family and friends, as they all paused their conversations with each other as draft picks were announced.
“Being with the family and everybody that’s here and the whole community, that means a lot to me,” Riehl said. “That means more than anything to me right now. Just being in my hometown and being with everybody, I love it, it’s just awesome.”
As is the case with an amateur draft in any sport, one never really knows when their name might be called. According to various reports, Riehl was projected to be selected somewhere between the sixth and twelfth rounds, but could just as easily been selected before or after.
In 2014, the dream of possibly playing for a major league team seemed dim after Riehl came down with a serious injury. During the summer of that year, Riehl was diagnosed with massive blood clots in his chest.
“My Subclavian vein got completely shutoff,” Riehl said. “I was in the hospital for eight days and probably shouldn’t still be here, but I got very lucky.”
Riehl said his arm swelled up about three times its normal size.
Doctors told Riehl he had what was known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS), which wasn’t an uncommon injury with baseball players, especially pitchers.
St. Louis Cardinals pitchers Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia have both suffered from the injury.
“Being a baseball pitcher, it just closes off that vein over time and the muscle just gets bigger and shuts off that vein,” Riehl said. “It just completely shut it off and I was off all the year of 2014.”
Riehl returned to baseball the next year, 2015, after recovering from surgery to alleviate the issue with TOS.
“I just wanted to play again,” Riehl said. “I went from wanting to play to getting this opportunity. I’ve been truly blessed to be able to play again and then get this opportunity. I have just been truly blessed, truly blessed.”
The 6-foot-5-inch right-handed pitcher attended Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, North Carolina, where he played college baseball. Riehl also played for the Chillicothe Paints in Chillicothe, Ohio, a member of the Prospect League and home of the OHSAA Southeast District and Region 11 baseball tournament rounds.
The 22-year-old from Lucasville has only been back actively playing for about a year since his injury and now finds himself about to be drafted by a major league team.
“The big-man upstairs is definitely taking care of me,” Riehl said. “He’s just given me all these gifts that he’s given me to do. He kept me on the earth and has a greater purpose for me, so I’m just excited and blessed to find out what that is. It’s just a great feeling.”
A lot of different people have motivated Riehl during his time as an Indian at Valley High School, a Lion at Mars Hill College and as a Paint with the Chillicothe Paints.
“Really, all of them have motivated me, whether good or bad,” Riehl said. “They’ve motivated me to be better. Coach (Dean) Schuler from Valley and Coach Tim Martin from Minford, I’ve been going to their camps since I was a little kid.”
Riehl also said his parents, Tracy and Andy Riehl, have been big motivators for him as well.
“They’ve been there since day one,” Riehl said.
Scioto County’s baseball history is rich with a plethora of talent coming from the small communities around the Ohio and Scioto Rivers. Names like Al Oliver and Larry Hisle are not forgotten by the boys on the diamond in the area.
“It is truly an honor to be mentioned with their names,” Riehl said. “Hopefully I can live up to what they did. They represented this county in a great way and I just want to represent this county the best I can.
“I am very blessed. I have a lot of people behind me and that just makes me work even harder. I am truly blessed. I get to wake up and know I have all these people behind me and get to live my dreams. It is awesome and is a great feeling.”
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.