The Wolverine

August 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 74 of 83

AUGUST 2019 THE WOLVERINE 75 BY JOHN BORTON This game will humble you, very quickly. You never really have this game mastered. — Former U-M baseball player Ryan LaMarre R yan LaMarre mastered the game more than 99.9 percent of the people who have ever picked up a bat and ball. He starred at Michi- gan, battled through the minors and pulled on a major league uniform for several teams. Still, the game seems elusive as a hard slider just off the outside corner. It bedevils and entices him, with its twists and turns of fate. He's battling for the Gwinnett Stripers — the Atlanta Braves' Tri- ple-A squad — and awaiting another call-up to the bigs. Meanwhile, La- Marre remains as enchanted with baseball as when he first ventured the half-hour from Jackson, Mich., to become a Wolverine. He wasn't pre-destined for Ann Arbor, despite the proximity of Lu- men Christi High to The Big House. He hadn't grown up watching foot- ball games there or anything like that. But he knew the Wolverines cap- tured two straight Big Ten champi- onships and played in the NCAA Regionals three straight years before what would become his freshman season. That and belief in the boss made Michigan an easy choice. "Towards my junior year, when [then head coach] Rich Maloney got a little more heavily involved, I just felt like I really connected with him on a deeper level," LaMarre said. "I just felt really comfortable with him. "It was one of those things I got a really good feeling about. The coaches, the campus, the direction of the program played a big role." That direction remained strong with a veteran team his freshman year. The Wolverines went 46-14, nailing down a third consecutive Big Ten championship and earning an NCAA berth. LaMarre battled to crack the start- ing lineup and did, playing all three outfield positions and starting 40 of Michigan's 60 games. He fought through his first real drought as a baseball player, raising his batting average from .163 on March 20 to .305 at season's end. "I actually got off to a really good start, our first couple series," La- Marre recalled. "But — and this still happens to me now — you try to do too much. You start expanding your zone, you swing at bad pitches. "I just didn't really struggle in high school. So to struggle that first time in college, on that level, you start to really question — 'I don't know if I'm cut out for this.' Those thoughts start creeping in." He dislocated his shoulder in a se- ries against Michigan State, missing two weeks. The time off allowed him to hit the reset button, in his view. "When I came back, I was a little more calm," he said. "I just slowed everything down a bit, starting get- ting some hits, feeling more con- fident. The team was on a run, so you're just trying to contribute and stay in the lineup." He did both. When the Wolver- ines followed a regular-season Big Ten championship with a Big Ten Tournament title on their home field, LaMarre didn't have to wait to cel- ebrate as a champion. "It was cool," he said. "I was in right field when we clinched it. I re- member running in and dog piling. You see pictures of the year before when they did it, and when did it at Vanderbilt, but to be part of it was different. "We had a great crowd. We swept the Big Ten Tournament, so I felt like there was a chance we were going to host a regional. A lot of people were super excited about that." Michigan did host an NCAA Re- gional in 2008, but the vagaries of the weather mixed with those of baseball combined to cut short a longer run. The Wolverines burned ace pitcher Zach Putnam in a five-inning Friday washout to open the series. They still beat Kentucky the next day, 7-5, but then lost a gut-grinder to No. 24 Ari- zona (4-3) and bowed out in a pitch- ing-compromised 12-6 finale versus the Wildcats. "It was one of those moments you look back on and say, man, if we had beaten Arizona, or if that rain hadn't come, you just never know," he said. "You can always play the what-if game." A postseason conversation with Maloney upped the ante for his soph- omore year. "I remember him basically telling me, 'We're going to lose a lot of guys to the draft, to graduation, our whole starting nine. You're going to need to be a big part of this, going for- ward. We're going to rely on you,'" LaMarre recounted. "Him having that belief in me and giving me that responsibility, I felt when I went off to summer ball, I tried to work a little harder — put a little more time in at the weight room, came into the fall in a little better shape. "You take a more vocal leadership role on the team." LaMarre led forcefully, pacing the team with a .344 average, 55 runs scored and 62 RBI, while earning second-team All-Big Ten status. The Wolverines proved just too young to follow in championship fashion. They dipped to 30-25, 9-15 in the Big Ten. There were no NCAA games, or even a Big Ten Tournament berth.   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Ryan LaMarre Continues Living His Baseball Dream After earning All-Big Ten honors as a junior in 2010, LaMarre was selected in the sec- ond round of the MLB Draft (62nd overall). PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - August 2019