Oakville's Ryan Plourde. A local star on the diamond looking to get back to pro-ball.
TORRINGTON: He still smiles wide when he talks about the game he has loved since he was a kid and treasures every opportunity he gets to play it.
Ryan Plourde, the pride of Oakville, was back at Fuessenich Park on the Fourth of July as part of the Naugatuck Dogs, Tri-State Baseball League team talking part in a Home Run Derby that preceded an exhibition game between the Tri-State All Stars and the Torrington Titans.
After the dust had settled and many a ball hit into the Naugatuck River beyond the Fuessenich fences, Plourde came out on top with seven long balls in the final round, a few that still may be in orbit.
Plourde you may remember, was a star in high school at Holy Cross before tearing it up in college for Fairfield.
While at Fairfield, Plourde came back to Torrington to play as a member of the Titans, where he spent a pair of seasons and was a crowd favorite from his catching position or occasional outfield start.
In his second season with the Titans, Plourde was second on the team in batting with a .311 mark and he cracked four home runs while driving in 29.
The three best hitters on that team, Conor Bierfeldt (Torrington), Plourde and Mike Odenwaelder (Wamogo) all became professional ball players after leading their team that summer to a 29-22 mark.
Bierfeldt (Fredrick Keys) and Odenwaelder (Aberdeen Iron Birds) are both in the Baltimore Orioles organization.
Plourde started his journey on July 7, 2014 when he was signed by the Chicago White Sox and was assigned the next day to play in the Arizona League.
He would go on to hit .290 with a homer and eight driven in for the Sox Rookie League squad in 14 games.
The next season, Plourde began the year assigned to the Kannapolis Intimidators in the South Atlantic League and went back and forth from the Intimidators to the Winston-Salem Dash (Class A, Advanced) in the Carolina League.
He would go from the Dash back to White Sox Extended Spring Training before being sent back to the Intimidators on May 29, 2015.
In 40 games, the former Crusader hit .200 in limited action, hitting one home run while driving in nine. He was released from the organization on September 15, 2015.
Since then, he has been back in Connecticut and on a hot Fourth of July, he came back to a place where he played a great deal during his time with Holy Cross and then in the FCBL with the Titans.
“It feels good,” Plourde said. “It’s been a while, four or five years. I had a lot of good times here, a lot of good memories. I took part in the Home Run Derby a few years back and to come back and be part of it was pretty special.”
The occasion was not lost on him either.
“Baseball and the Fourth of July,” Plourde said. “They go together like peanut butter and jelly.”
Understanding the nature of pro-ball is what many players in Plourde’s situation have had to come to grips with. It’s a tough business but he doesn’t regret a thing.
“I had a great time with the White Sox organization,” Plourde said. “I was grateful for that opportunity. I would never change that for anything but where one story ends, another one begins.”
What was his reaction when he was first drafted by the White Sox?
“It didn’t really hit me as you would think,” Plourde said. “Obviously it was a great experience and I was completely shocked to get the phone call but it’s one of those things that I’ve been wanting to do for so long and I expected that once I was there, I was going to battle and stay there. So I didn’t make a mountain out of an ant hill, so to speak. I went in there cool and collected and I played well and I did well.”
As for the future?
“I may try to get myself into some independent ball,” Plourde said. “Whether it be Bridgeport or New Britain. I definitely don’t plan on stopping any time soon.”
The total experience has by no means dampened his spirits or prospects, on the contrary.
“Playing in this summer leagues shows you that you can play with anyone in the country,” Plourde said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a high draft pick or someone like me who was picked up as a free agent. If you can play baseball at that level you can hang around.”
Here’s hoping a young man that simply loves to lace ‘em up and play ball finds the end result he has worked hard to find.
The Naugatuck Dogs currently sport a 12-1 record, good for second place in the league, just behind the Watertown Blaze who sport a perfect 13-0 mark.
Plourde and the Dogs will be back at Fuessenich Park on Friday, July 15 to take on the Torrington Rebels at 7 p.m.