Dallas Baptist outfielder Jace Grady once ripped a line out and jogged back to the dugout with two words to say, “ah sports.” For luck, there comes frustration. At the end of a hard-hit ball can lie leather, and at the end of a soft-hit fly ball can lie grass. In a game defined by perfection, though, a phrase as simple as Grady’s left a mark on Ryan Wrobleski.
The Houston Astros selected Wrobleski in the 20th round of the 2022 MLB Draft. The catcher marked the third Dallas Baptist product to join the system in the past two years, beginning a professional chapter months after left thumb surgery delayed the start of his final collegiate season.
To shake off the unluckiness or the struggles of coming out unrewarded, Wrobleski carried the mantra from his college dugout to his new team. Looking to impact not only himself, but also his teammates, he found a way to keep everyone in a good headspace, boosting overall morale.
“Instead of guys coming back in the dugout and slamming their helmet because they lined out, they are like, ‘well, sports,'” Wrobleski said. “That just makes people laugh, and it keeps the energy good compared to the opposite.”
On top of the phrase he carries from his college days, there are two rules Wrobleski and his teammates follow. The first rule is try your best, and the second rule is don’t hit it at people. These two rules are additional ways they respond to the unpredictability of the sport.
“If you don’t try your best and you suck, that’s on yourself,” Wrobleski chuckled.
From open grass to room beyond the outfield wall, Wrobleski breaks out these jokes with his teammates. On top of keeping morale high, Wrobleski is trying to flush out the unluckiness of a hard-hit out or the anger of a strikeout, avoiding the carryover of frustration into his next at-bat.
“I would say I’m just trying to bring the fun back to baseball,” Wrobleski said. “Clearly you don’t know what’s ever going to happen in the game of baseball. … Just come up with stupid things to keep the optimism there and just keep the ball rolling, whether it’s good or bad.”
Through Fayetteville and Asheville, Wrobleski has seen more players buy in. If one player is enjoying himself, two more will follow, resulting in a domino effect. Each player strives for the same result, piecing together team wins, but for Wrobleski, there are two halves.
“Half the battle is just truly having joy and confidence out there,” Wrobleski said. “Sometimes it’s going to be tough, but sometimes it’s going to be great. It’s just how often can you keep this optimistic approach in a game of failure.”
From the ups and downs of professional baseball, there’s a sense of simplifying it. Wrobleski’s goal is to make the bad not so bad. On days he could go 0-for-4, he looks for the opportunity to reach on an error and make an impact on the base paths. The day prior to his cycle in late April, Wrobleski wore a golden sombrero, striking out four times in four trips to the plate.
Simplicity is Wrobleski’s middle name, Tourists hitting coach Bryan Muniz said. Muniz dubbed Wrobleski a student of the game, one loving all aspects of it. Finding simple cues are credited to the success and consistency Wrobleski posted through the first 42 games of the season.
Wrobleski started off the year as a free swinger. He attacked pitches early in the zone. But as the season progressed, he started to notice a difference in how opposing pitchers approached him.
“He has maintained his aggressiveness early in the counts but seeing him turn into a more selective hitter with two strikes has really allowed him to find success in a different way by drawing walks or attacking mistakes in the zone later in the counts,” Muniz said.
Due to injuries in college, a lost season in 2020 and growing up in Minnesota, where Wrobleski couldn’t play year round, consistent at-bats were hard to come by. He didn’t find those everyday opportunities until the Astros assigned him to Single-A Fayetteville this spring.
After five games with the Woodpeckers, Wrobleski received a promotion to High-A Asheville, where everything clicked. Over his first 11 games, the righty went 15-for-43 with eight extra-base hits, sporting a 1.029 OPS. He built confidence in playing everyday, maximizing opportunities defensively, too. Crediting Muniz for formulating game plans, Wrobleski never felt ill-prepared.
Just as Wrobleski settled into his best streak offensively, the Astros shipped him to Triple-A Sugar Land on May 4 in response to Korey Lee dealing with a left groin injury. Wrobleski wanted to play, but a happy medium needed to be found.
“Did it suck not playing every day? Of course,” Wrobleski said. “But at the same time, I maximized my (batting practice). I was learning stuff from the catchers up in Triple-A, the pitchers up in Triple-A and even different hitters and stuff like how they go about their business, which is just as valuable as getting at-bats.”
Wrobleski knew his role with the Space Cowboys. He was there to fill in and not step on anyone’s toes. But in the week-and-a-half stretch of looking on from the dugout, Wrobleski picked the brains of Lee and Luke Berryhill. He carried those game planning conversations back with him to Asheville, where he is continuing to build trust and eliminating disconnects in each battery.
The day-to-day outlook is important to Wrobleski. Given numerous success stories from every corner of an organization, Wrobleski doesn’t believe a player lives and dies by his statistics. For what the future holds beyond a playing career, though, baseball can’t get rid of Ryan Wrobleski.
“I think I’m going to be a lifer in this game, no matter what,” Wrobleski said. “If I can serve and help out my teammates anyway I can, that’s one thing, but then also being able to impact people’s careers in a positive way, whether you’re a player or a coach, that should probably be your No. 1 goal.”