Grant's Jake Ring excels in the art of basestealing
There are a lot of things Jake Ring wants to do in life.
Becoming the best thief in Illinois state history is at the top of his list right now.
His parents, Mark and Jan, would be so proud.
Of course, in baseball, stealing is a good thing.
Ring is a junior outfielder at Grant. He's developed quite a reputation as being one of the best thieves in Lake County.
After rolling up 40 stolen bases in about 16 games to break Grant's single-season steals record last year, he's looking to take on the IHSA state record book this year.
Not surprisingly, the speedy Ring, who seems to run circles, or better yet rings, around the fielders who try to throw him out, is off to a quick start in 2012. He bagged 6 steals in the Bulldogs' first three games.
Although he'll have to pick up the pace a bit to take down the all-time IHSA record of 73 steals in a season set by Odin's Jeff Burton in 1988, Ring firmly believes he'll get well within range.
"All I have to do is keep getting on (base). Once I'm on, I'm going to get steals," said Ring, Grant's super-efficient leadoff hitter. "I'm confident I can steal on anyone."
The numbers back him up.
Ring, who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and a 6.7-second 60-yard dash, got thrown out stealing only twice last season in 42 attempts. That success rate earned him a spot on the Illinois Baseball Coaches Association all-area team.
So far this season, Ring says the throws against him haven't even been close.
"I go for the steal pretty much every time I get on. I've got the green light. People are anticipating it, and they still aren't catching me," Ring said. "There was even one game where there was a pitch out and I went to steal and I beat the throw by a long shot.
"It's been great for our team. When you get steals like that, you put the other team out of rhythm and you give your own guys confidence at the plate because they know they've got someone in scoring position. I think steals do a lot in baseball."
Steals have certainly done a lot for Ring on a person level. He's now getting looks from major Division I programs such as Air Force, Michigan State and Boston College They're intrigued not only by his strong baserunning, but by how it developed virtually overnight.
Ring made the varsity as a freshman but it wasn't because he was some renown steals artist in youth baseball. His speed in the outfield and his prowess at the plate (he batted .455 last season as a sophomore) got his coaches' attention initially.
He had a decent freshman season, but stole only 2 bases. A year later, he was making strong contributions as a sophomore but still wasn't stealing bases early in the season.
Then suddenly, his career had an "A-ha" moment.
"We were about halfway through the season last year and we had Jake steal a couple of bases and he did great with it. We decided to work with him on it a little bit and it was obvious he had a knack for it," Grant coach Dave Behm said. "We never realized how good he could be. But he is just so fast, and he's got these instincts for how the timing should be, and he's got this great feel for pitchers and their rhythm.
"This all kind of came out of nowhere. But some of these tools that we didn't know he had, that he probably didn't even know he had, are really showing themselves now and we're trying to take advantage of that whenever we can."
Ring, who spends his free time attending baseball camps and speed camps and working out relentlessly in the weight room, plans on attempting a steal every time he gets on base. He just hopes his reputation as a consummate thief doesn't overshadow his other virtuous qualities.
"The stolen bases are getting me some attention, but what (college) coaches are going to see when they look closer at me is that I'm a lot more than that," Ring said. "I think my defense in the outfield is my biggest strength. The speed and quickness I use to steal bases helps me track balls in 0the outfield. I'm able to cover a lot of ground."
Ring won't rest until he covers a lot of ground in the record books, too.
The desire might be genetic. Interestingly, his dad Mark owns about every baseball record in Grant history. Except for the steals record, of course.
"I'm always giving my dad a hard time about that," Ring laughed. "It would be weird to break my Dad's records and he makes jokes about that. But he also really encourages me. He wants me to break his records."
Again, Ring would be doing Mom and Dad proud.