Showcase | Story | 6/15/2016

Fun comes first for Vilade

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Joy Absalon

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Making an appearance at the Perfect Game National Showcase can be a stressful affair for even the most steel-mind young prospect. Try to imagine the butterflies in a 17-year-old’s gut when he trots out to the mound or steps up to the plate with the eyes of hundreds of scouts and talent evaluators focused on his every move.

At the risk of carelessly categorizing every one of the rising seniors in attendance at this week’s 16th annual PG National Showcase that started its six-day run Wednesday at beautiful jetBlue Park, it can be said with confidence that Frisco, Texas, shortstop Ryan Vilade would fall into any group that lives by the mantra, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-handed hitting and throwing Vilade is fully aware of the considerable doors the PG National can open for him in terms of how he is evaluated as a top prospect. He came into the event sitting at No. 17 in PG’s class of 2017 national prospect rankings, and a lot of that high regard came from Top Prospect List performances at both the 2015 PG Junior National Showcase here in Fort Myers and at the PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego. He stayed relaxed and worry-free at those events, and good things happened.

“I really just try to come out here and have as much fun as I can no matter where I’m at,” Vilade said Wednesday morning. “I trust myself to do my thing, and if I do that everything will be good. The most important thing is to have fun and play like the scouts aren’t there. There’s always nerves at first, but you have to remember that it’s baseball, it’s a game and you just have to go out and have fun and do your thing.”

It's safe to say that just about all of the nearly 300 prospects that will be at the PG National Showcase over the next six days paid close attention to last week’s 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft. Vilade couldn’t help but notice how many of the draftees – including 13 first-rounders – had performed at the PG National the summer before their senior year in high school.

“It really hit me that this is the year my name could be announced at the draft,” Vilade said. “It’s really kind surreal that it’s all happening, it’s all coming together. This is by far the most important summer for me; it’s draft season now. All the scouts are looking at you and my number-one goal is to get drafted. You have to come out here and show them what you got and this a great showcase to come do that because everyone is here.”

And Vilade also knows that the PG National is serving as his final “audition” for an invitation to this summer’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego. Dozens of invites are extended at this event every year, which adds to its prominence. “(Perfect Game) wants the best of the best (in San Diego), and this is definitely some of the best players out there,” he said.

Vilade has committed to Oklahoma State, carries a 4.0 GPA at Frisco (Texas) High School and possesses outstanding bloodlines. His father, James, and his mother, Jennifer, were both NCAA Division I athletes at Baylor with James playing baseball and Jennifer playing volleyball. James Vilade went into baseball coaching and spent 11 seasons as the head coach at the University of Dallas and the University of Texas-Tyler.

He then spent four years (2011-14) on the coaching staff of the Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas Rangers’ Double-A affiliate in Frisco. In June 2015, James Vilade joined Oklahoma State head coach Josh Holliday’s staff as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.

Neither James or Jen Vilade are able to be with their son in Southwest Florida this week because they are in Omaha, Neb., while the OSU Cowboys prepare for their first College World Series appearance since 1999.

“My dad has been the one that’s really taught me the game of baseball,” Ryan Vilade said. “He was a college coach when I was growing up so I was always with him at the field. After he went on to coach with the RoughRiders, I got to bat-boy a little bit and meet some of the players. My mom, she’s helped me along the way, too, taking me to all the practices and games. They’ve both really had a big influence on my baseball career.”

Interestingly enough, Ryan had committed to Oklahoma State during his sophomore year at Frisco High School, a year before his dad got hired at OSU. Ryan points out that his grandparents and several cousins attended Oklahoma State, so there was a connection even before James got the job.

“I knew that’s where I wanted to play, and right when they offered me I said, ‘For sure, I’d love to come play here,’” he said. “And now that my dad’s there it’s going to make it an even better experience; I’m excited for it.”

The PG National Showcase is the ninth PG event at which Vilade has participated since 2013 and his third showcase. He’s seen most of his action playing with various Dallas Tigers’ teams at all the age-levels and was named to the all-tournament team at the 2014 15u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational and at the 16u PG World Series, with both events played at Perfect Game Park South in Cartersville, Ga.

“The Dallas Tigers are great,” Vilade said. “My group of guys have been playing with each other for about four years now, so it’s really a family. We travel all over the country playing, and we just have a blast talking about everything and hanging out with each other at the hotels and on long car rides. It’s just a blast.”

The Dallas Tigers won the PG national championship at last year’s 16u PG World Series, finishing with a 9-1-0 record after beating Team Elite in the championship game. Vilade was joined on the event’s all-tournament team by eight Tigers’ teammates including outfielder Zachary DeLoach (No. 107, Texas A&M) and left-hander Russell Smith (No. 51, TCU), both of whom are also here this week.

“We were definitely not picked to win it; we were definitely the underdogs,” Vilade said. “We only had 13 guys and some of the other teams had as many as 25, but we came in, did our thing and got the job done and got the ring at the end of the tournament. It was a lot of fun.”

Ryan Vilade also played with the Dallas Tigers at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in October, another one of PG’s biggest scouting events. Even after experiencing Jupiter, Vilade said he was “very excited” when he received the invitation to the PG National mostly due to the impeccable reputation the event has established.

He also loves how a high-profile event such as this allows him to get reacquainted with old buddies while making a whole lot of new friends along the way. It all goes hand-in-hand with his whole “Don’t worry, be happy” persona.

“Baseball is a game and you just have to have fun; that’s the main thing,” Vilade said. “Don’t worry, don’t stress, it’s a game. You’re going to go field a groundball and then you’re going to go home and do the same thing or the next thing tomorrow. You just have to have fun with it; that’s my biggest thing.”

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