High school baseball star Jack Rye said the main reasons he chose Florida State were the facilities he saw on his recruiting trip. That decision proved very smart a few years later, after the outfielder dove for a fly ball and suffered a potentially career-ending shoulder injury.
“I walked into the big training room, and I was just shocked. I’d never seen anything like that,” Rye said after his recruiting trip. “I’m very fortunate we have these types of facilities and have access to all of this (medical help). I’m very fortunate that we have Seminole Boosters, who contribute so much money to the program. I mean, I wouldn’t want to have a nagging shoulder for the rest of my life.”
Facilities caught Rye’s eye and saved his career
By John Ritter
When Jack Rye first landed on the Florida State campus over two years ago as a high school junior from California, the 17-year old was instantly smitten.
Here for one of Mike Martin’s famous advanced baseball camps in the summer, the outfielder found that everything seemed to catch his eye, “like nothing I’d ever seen before,” he remembers.
The grass and clay of Dick Howser Stadium, the locker room, tradition room, and, down below, the training facilities the Moore Athletic Center.
“Oh, it was everything,” he said. “It was medical, baseball, everything. I walked in to the big training room, and I was just shocked. I’d never seen anything like that. And every facility was just so well put together.”
More than $30–million were invested by Seminole Boosters to do just that; to catch the eyes’ of prospects like Jack Rye.
Those facilities include a renovated Dick Howser Stadium that has a clubhouse that most professional franchises would find envious. But Rye would soon learn that the Seminole Boosters donors who contributed their hard-earned money to build those facilities did it for another important reason, and that was to provide for the health and well being of the prospects they attract.
With little thought, the high school standout, who hit .400 in each of his four seasons, decided that he wanted to see those facilities every day, and committed to Florida State.
At the time, Rye didn’t know how fortunate he was to make that choice, because, two years later, his All-American career would be in jeopardy and the facilities he fell in love with would be needed to repair a major injury.
Rewind a bit.
In the fall of ’05, the right fielder joined the ‘Noles as a freshman and blossomed in his role in right field, winning a spot on the All-ACC Tournament team.
As a sophomore, Rye found the same success leaping into the radars of various scouts, leading the team in homers (12) while placing second in doubles (16).
Although Florida State reached the No. 1 ranking in the nation that year, the season came to an abrupt end as the ‘Noles fell to Georgia in the first round of the NCAA Regionals.
In that series, Rye remembers diving for a fly ball in the right-center gap.
He remembers the leap and the jarring fall to the turf that followed close behind.
What he doesn’t remember is wondering if the crash was of any significance.
He simply got up, rolled his arm around a couple times and moved on.
“Actually I didn’t [think it was a major injury],” Rye admitted. “I kinda got the wind knocked out of me and, yeah, I felt a little bit sore like right after but I really didn’t think anything of it.”
Following the series loss, a disappointed Rye packed his things, rotated his shoulder a few times and flew home to California in hopes of strengthening his body.
“The shoulder was kind of the last thing I was thinking about [after the loss],” he said. “I really didn’t think anything of it. It’s just going to heal easily and all that.”
Despite repeated attempts to shake the pain loose from his shoulder, Rye became more and more convinced he did more than tweak his shoulder. So, he returned to Tallahassee and contacted Jake Pfiel, a trainer, to talk about his discomfort.
“I came back to school early in August to hang out here and work out here,” he said. “I saw my trainer, Jack Pfiel, and we decided to get an MRI, and that’s really when we found out.”
The sophomore did more than simply tweak his shoulder.
It was a tear; one that ripped the labrum off the bone in his right shoulder.
Immediately, Pfiel set up Steve Jordan to conduct surgery on the injured wing, an operation that calls for the labrum and the joint to be tacked down.
Rye, who had never had any type of injury in his life, faced the reality or spending the next six weeks in a sling without movement. Swinging a bat was out of the question for the next eight weeks.
“Six weeks immobilized,” said Pfiel, regarding the standard rehab. “Then you begin a general range of motion and you’re restricted to what kind of motion after that. He was not able to cock his arm back, so he was limited to moving around pain free, and that’s what is really taxing. You’ve got some days when he really hates you stretching him.”
“It was really tough,” Rye joked. “I never realized how important my right arm was.”
More importantly, as his teammates began suiting up for Fall ball— an important preparation for the season — Rye wouldn’t be able to start swinging until Christmas Break.
“We’re all kind of freaked out, you know, because of the timing,” said Pfiel. “We essentially go home for Christmas break with him not having played all fall, and he was just then cleared to hit. He was worried, because he hadn’t had much time hitting, and here he was jumping right back in it as soon as we get back in January.”
“I talked to [head coach Mike Martin] and he said I didn’t really have [a position battle] to worry about as long as [my shoulder] is fine and all that,” said Rye. “I wasn’t really too worried.”
With his spot in right field secured (pending good progress), Rye sat and anxiously watched the clock as the six weeks came and went, all the while realizing that this is why he came to FSU in the first place.
“I mean, Jake Pfiel was mostly with me the whole time and he was with me every step of the way,” Rye said. “I’m very fortunate we have this type of facility and have access to all of this stuff to help.”
The next step was a workout regimen, put in place by the FSU training staff, in hopes regaining strength in his arm and reviving his smooth left-handed stroke, starting off with small free weights. It also included time in the Training Facility’s AquaticsCenter, which includes an underwater treadmill rarely found in other schools.
To test Rye's progress, Pfiel consulted some of Florida State’s best high-tech gadgets.
“It’s called Kinetic testing, where you can test the strength of his shoulder. We did workouts on his arm as well. It’s all a computerized thing,” he said. “We’ve certainly got facilities there that a lot of people don’t have.”
Slowly, but surely, the unique program built Rye’s strength back by Christmas break. Yet, Rye began feeling his body aching for some real action.
“It was kind of making me mad because I felt like I could do a lot more, you know,” Rye admitted.
“Towards the end of the fall, Jack started to get a little antsy,” Pfiel said. “When it got to be the end of fall, it got to be, ‘Oh my god, I’m about to be home’, and he didn’t want to miss any time in January.”
Well, he didn’t.
Despite injuring his wing for the first time in his life, Rye recovered and slammed back into the FSU lineup without skipping a beat. Spending most of the season hitting in the third slot, Rye pumped out 10 homers and 61 RBIs. He was third on the team in batting average and third again in slugging percentage.
“I’m very fortunate we have these types of facilities and have access to all of this stuff to help,” Rye gushed. “I feel great. I feel very fortunate to have been able to get ready before the season started and have a season like I had.”
“He never really got down,” Pfiel said on Rye's time in rehab. “Getting back the way he did, I think it could have taken a little longer. But with him, I think it’s something that maybe we got lucky, everything went great. He was not a guy I had to chase around to work. He was there every day and worked his butt off.”
Whether it’s playing time, prestige or even facilities, there are dozens of reasons why college athletes choose the schools they will call home. Often times, though, those reasons get left behind after seasons of success or disappointment.
Not for Jack Rye.
The same reason he decided to play baseball at Florida State in the first place, is the same reason he still plays.
“It’s great to have facilities,” Rye said. “I’m very fortunate that we have [Seminole Booster], who contribute so much money to the program. I mean, I wouldn’t want to have a nagging shoulder for the rest of my life.”