Ryan DeJesús Announces Retirement
Pacifics Lefty to Pursue Career in Firefighting
By Vinnie Longo
Every summer dating back to 2011, Ryan DeJesús has won a baseball championship. At first in summer collegiate baseball and then twice in the past two years in professional baseball with the San Rafael Pacifics. But after he stormed the field with the rest of the Pacifics following their walkoff win in the 2015 Pacific Association Championship Game, he knew that it would be the last time.
After spending two seasons with the Pacifics, both bolstering the rotation as a crafty left-handed starter and as a leader in the clubhouse, DeJesús has decided that it’s time to move on to his life after baseball.
The Final Season
After putting together an incredible rookie campaign for San Rafael in 2014, where he went 7-2 with a 2.92 ERA and finished fourth in the league in Pitcher of the Year voting, DeJesús had a 2015 season that had its fair share of ups and downs. It began when he was given a spring training invitation to play for the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League. After putting together a solid spring, the Grizzlies handed DeJesús his outright release on the last day before the regular season.
“Once I was released from Gateway, I knew that the time for me to be moving up in baseball was coming to an end,” said DeJesús. “But I knew that I wasn’t going to quit right there. I’d put in so much work in the offseason that I was going to play in 2015, and if I was going to play again, San Rafael was a no brainer for me.”
Within 15 minutes of learning that he’d been cut from the Gateway roster, DeJesús was on the phone with Pacifics Manager Matt Kavanaugh. The call came in mid-May, as the final touches of the Pacifics spring training roster were being put in place, and it was one that gave the Pacifics a big piece for their opening day rotation.
“Getting that call from Ryan was a huge part of setting our pitching rotation, because we knew what we were getting from him: a solid starter, a player with great work ethic, and a natural leader both on and off the field,” said Pacifics President and General Manager Mike Shapiro. “Putting together a group of starters in independent baseball is a difficult task. We don’t have access to advanced scouting reports, so we’re often signing guys based on reputation or the word of scouts or agents. Knowing what we were getting from Ryan was critical to our preseason planning.”
But the summer didn’t go as planned. DeJesús struggled out of the gate, giving up 20 earned runs in his first four starts while going 1-2. He showed flashes of the pitcher who dominated the league in 2014, but wasn’t able to find his consistency.
In July, he turned his season around, putting together four straight quality starts, including an eight-inning, three run effort in Pittsburg. DeJesús would only turn in one other start in which he struggled for the remainder of the season, leading up to a masterful six-inning, one-run performance against Sonoma on the regular season’s final day.
On the Horizon
DeJesús will now turn his attention to another career goal: becoming a firefighter. It’s a tough career path to follow, and the first step is to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
“As soon as the season wrapped up in San Rafael I started taking fire technology classes at a local junior college,” said DeJesús. “I’m in EMT school now, which I’ll finish in early February. Hopefully by the middle of February I’ll be working in LA as an EMT doing 9-1-1 calls.”
DeJesús hopes that he’ll be able to stay close to home in Southern California as a firefighter, which is also a place where his baseball roots run deep.
Following the 2014 season, DeJesús became a coach at Thousand Oaks High School, working as both a pitching and strength and conditioning coach.
“Coaching is something that I love to do, and I hope to keep coaching as long as possible. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s great to see the improvement with the guys that I’ve worked with over the last couple of years.”
But the life of an EMT makes outside commitments difficult, at best. Shifts can last as long as 24 hours, and as a new hire, it would be unlikely that DeJesús would be able to set his schedule to work around Thousand Oaks baseball practices. For now, that means that his only commitment to the program was through the fall season.
“Hopefully I’ll get in the swing of things with my schedule and be able to continue coaching there in the years going forward because coaching is a big thing for me.”
Baseball Provides the Memories
Despite his professional career spanning just two seasons, DeJesús has a lifetime’s worth of memories thanks to the game that he grew up playing.
In 2000, his AAU travel team, the Conejo Valley Mavericks, finished as the ninth best team in the nation. Since then, DeJesús’s career has been filled with success and friendships, bonds that will hold true for years.
“I was talking to my buddy the other day about friendships and I realized that every true friend that I have is somebody that I’ve met through baseball. I’ve played all over the place: travel ball, [collegiate] summer ball in Hawaii, Palm Springs, San Francisco, and Southern California, and professionally in San Rafael.
The memories, the teammates, and the friendships that I built over my career are what I’ll truly be able to take away most from [baseball].”
DeJesús nearly hit serious bumps in his career twice, first in his collegiate days at San Francisco State University. Prior to the last inter-squad game before his junior year, he suffered an injury that kept him sidelined for the whole season. With the help of the training staff, he was able to make a full recovery in only one year and was able to effectively return during his senior season.
The second came in the California Winter League in 2014, when DeJesús was signed by the Pacifics Director of Scouting Dan DiPace. Pacifics GM Mike Shapiro came on a scouting trip toward the tail end of the league’s competition, and DeJesús had developed some arm soreness from overuse.
“The game that [Shapiro] saw me, I was pulled after the first inning. I gave up a couple of runs and couldn’t keep going because my elbow was hurting. So when I came into spring training and saw that they’d brought in a lot of big-name pitchers with a lot of professional experience, I didn’t have that positive of an outlook to not just make the starting rotation, but even to make the team.”
But DeJesús’s spring training was stellar, and not only did he make the team, but he earned a spot in a starting rotation that featured two former AAA-level pitchers. When Nick DeBarr and Chuck Lofgren left the rotation for promotion and retirement respectively, DeJesús stepped into the critical # 2 starter role and excelled.
“Being able to make that rotation out of spring training in 2014 is what I consider to be my biggest accomplishment as a player. To earn a spot in such a talented group of starters with as many veterans as we had that year, to get the trust of the coaching staff and owners to put me in that role, that meant a lot to me.”
Though the sun has set on his baseball career, DeJesús begins a new chapter of his life with no regrets.
“Being able to go out with those back to back championships… I couldn’t have written it any better.”