Disabato: Stagg grad Justin Ringo enjoying baseball success as Stanford senior
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato March 31, 2013 7:32PM
Justin Ringo, Stagg graduate and Stanford University senior baseball player. | Supplied photo
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Updated: May 2, 2013 6:03AM
He hit .163 as a freshman, .125 as a sophomore and .182 as a junior — seasons that would cause many players to contemplate waving the white flag, either by transferring to another college or, possibly, giving up baseball.
Quitting, however, isn’t in Justin Ringo’s vocabulary.
One of the greatest pure hitters the Southland ever has produced, Ringo, a 2009 Stagg graduate, remained devoted and diligent despite his struggles, never once considering leaving Pac-12 power Stanford or hanging up his spikes.
It’s a good thing he didn’t.
Ringo, in his senior season, is hitting .323, with 20 hits, three doubles, two triples, one home run and 11 RBI — ranking in the team’s top three in each category.
His loyalty and patience is paying dividends.
“I’ve learned a lot the past few years,” said Ringo, a Palos Park resident. “I made some adjustments with my swing that have helped, but the biggest thing is that I’m just more relaxed. This game, at this level, can kill you mentally.
“I’ve gone with the mind-set that this is my senior year. This is it. You can’t be scared.”
The other major change is that Ringo, a left-handed hitter, is getting a chance to play regularly.
No longer does he have to wonder whether his name will be in the lineup. The only mystery has been whether he’ll hit second, third or fourth in the Cardinal batting order.
“Years past, I’d have three good games and then two bad ones and I would be back on the bench,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent here. If you’re not one of the top guys, when you get your chance you have to get the job done. You’re on a short leash because of the depth.
“I have to hit to stay in the lineup. The pitching is so much better than in high school. I kept the same mind-set hitting as I did in high school and that was a mistake. No excuses. The final stats have been garbage the past few years.”
However, it would have also been a mistake to give up on his dream.
Of course, like any kid who laces up the spikes, Ringo would love to play in the big leagues.
One of the big reasons Ringo chose Stanford, beyond the world-class education, was a chance to play in the College World Series.
The Cardinal was 12-8 entering a weekend series against Washington State. Stanford was ranked in the preseason Top 20 and, despite the struggles, is the favorite to win the rugged Pac-12, though it sat at 2-2 in conference play entering the weekend.
“The goal for me from Day 1 was to make it to the College World Series,” said Ringo, primarily the Cardinals DH. “I grew up watching it. We’ve come up short my first three years. I’m hoping this is our year.”
At Stagg, Ringo was a hitting machine, flirting with a .500 batting average throughout his four-year varsity career. He not only hit for average, but for power as well, clubbing 16 homer runs his junior season.
A few of those blasts were of the legendary variety. I recall one long ball sailing over Stagg’s football bleachers situated beyond right-center field and landing near the middle of the football field.
Ringo boasted a compact, lightning-quick swing and keen batting eye, routinely drawing two walks a game. Those intangibles appeared to favor a smooth transition to college.
Stanford, as Ringo found out, is a long way from Stagg, and the Pac-12 far more challenging than the SouthWest Suburban Red.
I give Ringo a great deal of praise for sticking it out and looking beyond the baseball field for a reason to remain at Stanford, which boasts a $60,000 annual tuition.
A prestigious Stanford education, along with the contacts, is priceless. One of Ringo’s fraternity brothers is Reed Jobs, son of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
Despite experiencing more valleys than peaks at Stanford, Ringo insists he wouldn’t change a thing.
He loves the school, his teammates, fellow students and the 8,180 acre campus, situated in northwestern Silicon Valley, just 35 minutes southeast of San Francisco.
“Obviously, I would have liked to have played more,” Ringo said. “But the school is incredible. I’ve met a lot of interesting people. I know people who have dropped out to start their own company. Kids whose families are billionaires. It’s a whole different culture out here, but I love it. It’s going to be hard to leave this place.”
Ringo, a Science Technology major, already has completed all of his course work and plans to stay in the Bay Area.
“I miss my family and friends back home,” Ringo said, “but I’m at least going to start my career out here and use my connections. Right now, though, I’m focusing on finishing the rest of the season strong and seeing what happens.”