Greenwich native Ricky Riscica has always worked hard at everything he’s done, so it’s only fitting that his hard work would pay off.
So on the first day of baseball practice for Keystone College, Riscica didn’t have to wait too long to find out that he was named captain of this year’s Keystone baseball team.
“A program like Keystone, with such a winning and rich tradition, as well as a rich heritage in baseball, is great to be a part of,” Riscica said. “It means the world to me that my teammates and my coaches thought I was worthy enough of the title of captain. I am ecstatic to come here and lead the team in a year that we are hoping to have big things happen and make it to the World Series. It’s an honor and blessing.”
Riscica found out about being named captain well before the majority of Keystone College was waking up. Just before the team’s first practice of the 2013 season, a 5 a.m. practice no less, head coach Jaime Shevchik pulled Riscica aside and told that him he was named captain of the Giants.
“This is his second year in the program,” Shevchik said. “He’s one of the hardest workers that we have on the team, one of the more vocal guys and one of the more mature guys here. It wasn’t a surprise by me that he was selected as a captain. It was pretty much unanimous. He’s got that Ray Lewis motivation thing in him and that keeps the guys on the team up and into it. He doesn’t have to be a starter or a key player on the team. He’s got the same mind-set all the time.”
While shocked that he was named a captain of the Giants, the redshirt junior didn’t want his teammates to see how excited he really was.
“We had a full practice to get through,” Riscica said. “I didn’t want to draw too much attention to it. I went about it like it was no big deal, but I was still really excited. Once I got out of practice, I was able to call my parents and they were ecstatic for me as well. They’ve always been there for me through my high school career as captain.”
One of Riscica’s fondest memories from his time at Keystone College was the moment when he called his parents back in Greenwich to let them know about the honor.
“I know they were truly proud and my dad immediately posted it on Facebook,” Riscica said. “My mom kind of joked around and said that there will be more work for her, as she remembered all the work the captain’s parents in high school had to do. They were truly proud and for me to do something that makes them proud is an unbelievable feeling. To be away at college and still be able to give them that phone call about great news about athletics is a true blessing.”
Riscica said that one of his strengths when it comes to being a captain is that he’s intense, both on and off the field. Also, being a captain on the Greenwich High School football team for one year and the Big Red baseball team for two seasons.
“I’ve been through it all,” Riscica said. “I’ve been through adversity and been able to work through a lot of pain to get teams to work together and work towards a common goal. If there’s one thing I want to do is lead by example, whether it’s getting to the weight room, getting academics done or putting in that extra work to be a better player. I think a lot of guys here are buying into it and it’s a snowball effect. If I do it, other guys will. If those guys do things the right way, other guys will.”
“He’s a very good student and a very hard worker,” added Shevchik. “Discipline is never the issue for him. He does everything we ask of him, does everything the right way and leads by example. He busts his tail in practice, on the field or in the weight room. He’s got all the qualities you look for as a leader.”
This year Keystone College has all the makings of a national championship contender and is currently ranked 12th in the nation in both the D3baseball.com and Collegiate Baseball Newspapers preseason polls. In Riscica’s first season with the Giants last year, the team went 37-8 overall and 17-1 in the Colonial States Athletic Conference. The team won the conference title for the past four years and advanced to the NCAA Regional Tournament.
Riscica stepped to the plate last year 22 times and had four hits and crossed the plate seven times.
“He brings a big left-handed stick for us,” Shevchik said. “Right now we are working him in the outfield and a little bit of first base. He’s a big left-handed power guy for us, something that we don’t have. He’s going to be able to drive the baseball and he has very good speed for a big guy. We hope he’s going to add an added dimension to us.”
Just being able to play for Keystone College is a thrilling feeling for Riscica. Last season, he injured his hip. Instead of immediately going for surgery, Riscica played through the pain his sophomore season with the Giants. After the season concluded, he went to the Hospital for Special Surgery to repair his hip.
After loads of rest and plenty of physical therapy and strength building in the offseason, Riscica is ready to show the world that he’s back and better than ever.
“I’m 100% ready to go,” Riscica said. “I had to miss a little bit of the fall practices while I was recovering. It’s game tested and I put my hip through everything. It held up great and I am confident that it is good to go with no issues.”
While Riscica will add depth as a lefty bat for Keystone College, Shevchik believes there’s still work to be done to improve the Greenwich native’s game.
“His biggest thing will be bat control, being more consistent at the plate and continue to do the things that will make him a better defense, which is strengthening his arm and being a well-rounded position player,” Shevchik said.
When the college season is finished, Riscica is hoping to still be playing baseball. Last summer he worked out with one of the coaches in the prestigious Cape Cod League and the possibility of competing there is still in the works.
“It would be a phenomenal opportunity for me to possibly play up there,” Riscica said. “Some of the best players in baseball came from that summer league. It’s such a distinguished league to play in.”
Now, however, Riscica is taking it one day at a time and doing everything possible to help the Giants get to the Division III World Series.
“With the talent that we have, the sky is truly the limit,” Riscica said. “It’s going to come down to how bad the guys want it. I have lived by that quote since forever. I want it. The talent is there and everything is in place, but now we just have to go out there and play, use the knowledge and skills that our coaches have put upon us and all the mental toughness we went through. Hopefully at the end of the year we are able to win our last game and be in Appleton, Wis., as national champions.”