Ryan Helsley, former Indian star of Sequoyah, is living a boy’s dream. The dream of being a great league ball player.
Helsley made his major league debut on April 16, 2019 for the St. Louis Cardinals. Becoming an MLB player has been the journey of a lifetime for Helsley.
“I started playing baseball when I was three years old. I’ve always loved playing in the infield and hitting was fun for me, ”said Helsley.
Helsley went on to say that he always dreamed of becoming a football or baseball player growing up.
“I remember at college we got a quiz asking what we wanted to be when we grew up,” he said. “I wrote an NFL player or an MLB player. But I never really thought it was possible until my sophomore year in college.
He has now been playing professionally for over six years. Helsley pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals organization throughout his career and is very familiar with the Cardinals’ history in baseball.
“I am very grateful to play for such a rich and historic franchise,” he said.
When asked when he first started to see professional baseball as an option, Helsley said it was when he was in California in 2014. He played summer ball for the Santa Barbara Foresters and that’s where he started to grab the attention of the pros. the boy scouts and his talents started to take a turn.
“I started to understand some things and started to throw harder,” he said. Now according to the site brooksbaseball.net, a site that analyzes MLB pitchers, Helsley has a fastball that sometimes hits 100 mph and has an average speed of 98.
Helsley would go on to be drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft after excelling as a pitcher for Northeastern State University. In 2014, he was named MIAA Freshman of the Year. After the draft, he made various minor league saves on teams such as the Johnson City Cardinals, Peoria Chiefs, Palm Beach Cardinals, Springfield Cardinals and Memphis Redbirds.
Helsley also excelled in four sports while attending Sequoyah High School. He played baseball, basketball, soccer and even participated in track and field when his schedule permitted.
“I loved my experience in high school,” he said. “I had amazing coaches and teachers who helped shape and shape me.” Honestly, I wanted to play football after graduating from high school, but I was offered to play baseball at NSU and decided I couldn’t pass it up.
The decision turned out to be the right decision, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Helsley also expressed his gratitude for his coach at NSU, Travis Janssen. Helsley always comes home whenever he gets the chance and trains at the NSU. Being a professional athlete is a full time job and takes a lot of dedication.
“It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline to get here,” Helsley said.
Helsley has learned what it takes, both mentally and physically, to be a major league pitcher.
“A lot of people don’t get it, but when you’re drafted into professional baseball there are six to eight levels of professional ball you might have to go through to get into the big leagues,” he said. “Minor league baseball is a chore and it really tests you physically and mentally. It’s a great feeling that I don’t want to take for granted.
Helsley also wants to give back to his community. As a proud citizen of the Cherokee Nation (pre-COVID-19), he would return home during the offseason and work with students at Cherokee Immersion School.
“I worked in their after school program, mainly in third and fourth grade, but sometimes also in third through eighth grade,” he said. “I would have loved to be around a professional athlete at this age. I just want to give back to my community and I want these kids to know that I am from the same community they are growing up in.
“I just want the kids to chase their dreams. I went to the same schools and if I can do something cool with my life so can they. “
He is very aware of his role as a potential role model for children. He continued to give further advice to the children.
“Challenge yourself and push yourself,” he said. “You will find that your limits are much higher than you think. Travel, go to school in another state, go to medical school or law school, whatever you want to do, you can. I know it sounds cliché, but we’re only young once and we only have one life, so chase your dreams.
Ryan Helsley has proven that a “kid from a small town in Tahlequah” can keep doing amazing things and making childhood dreams come true.