A real dream for Patrick Riehl

The afternoon of Saturday, June 11, 2016 was one Scioto County native Patrick Riehl will never forget. That afternoon, a life-long dream of the 22-year-old came true, when his phone rang around 4:00 p.m. When Riehl answered the phone, he could barely make out what was being said, due to the caller’s excitement. He had to tell the caller to repeat what was just said, a line he’ll remember verbatim until he takes his last breath.

“He told me the Cincinnati Reds were about to take me,” Patrick Riehl said.

The caller was Joe Bick, Riehl’s agent. He was calling to inform his client the intentions of the Cincinnati Reds, who were about to make their in round 26 of the 2016 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, also known as the First-Year Player Draft.

By the time Riehl was able to hang up, his name was being called as the latest selection in the draft.

“Everybody went nuts, it was crazy,” Riehl said. “It was a cool feeling, hearing your name called.”

A lifelong dream had come true for the former Lucasville-Valley Indian, who had dreamed this day would come since he was a child.

The dream nearly stayed that way for Riehl however. In 2014, Riehl was sidelined from baseball with a major injury, one that could have ended his baseball career.

“My Subclavian vein got completely shutoff,” Riehl said. “I was in the hospital for eight days and probably shouldn’t still be here, but I got very lucky.”

Riehl was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which wasn’t an uncommon injury for baseball players, especially pitchers.

While the injury could have ended his playing days, Riehl was able to return to baseball the following year, after undergoing surgery rejoining his college teammates at Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, North Carolina.

After coming back from the injury, Riehl said he realized how fortunate he was.

“I just wanted to play again,” Riehl said. “I went from wanting to play to getting this opportunity. I’ve been truly blessed to be able to play again and then get this opportunity. I have just been truly blessed, truly blessed.”

The 6-foot-5-inch right-handed pitcher had little time to bask in the moment after being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, as he received his first assignment shortly after hearing his name called.

Hall of Fame high school baseball coach Dean Schuler, who coached Riehl at Valley High School called his former player to let him know he needed to pack a suitcase because he would be flying out to Goodyear, Arizona the following day.

Schuler, who currently works as a scout for the Reds, told Riehl he would be heading to the home of the Reds Spring Training facility.

While there, Riehl underwent a physical and filled out routine paperwork, while working out and practicing with other selections made by the Reds in the draft.

“It was awesome,” Riehl said. “It was hot, but it was fun. I really enjoyed being introduced to the whole staff. I got to get a picture with Walt Jocketty and got to walk around the whole complex.”

Riehl also got to meet with Barry Larkin during his time in Arizona.

After three days in the desert, Riehl found out he would be heading north to play for the Billings Mustangs, a Reds Rookie affiliate, located in Billings, Montana. A few days after arriving in Billings, the Mustangs began their season.

The young Scioto County native didn’t have to wait long to make his professional baseball debut, as he was called on by Mustangs Manager, Ray Martinez to take the mound in the fifth inning of the season opener.

Since the beginning of the season, Riehl has made seven relief appearances for the Mustangs. He has picked up not only two wins, but also a save, allowing only three earned runs in 13.1 innings worth of work. He has walked three total batters and has struck-out 15 of the batters he has faced.

His earned run average currently sits at 2.03.

Aside from being able to play professional baseball, Riehl said one of the best things he’s been able to do in the last month has been working with Mustangs pitching coach Seth Etherton.

“He has been working with me quite a bit,” Riehl said. “He’s been working on my mechanics and other stuff and has really helped me improve my consistency. He has helped me out tremendously with that and with my control and my command.”

Command and control are essential attributes for pitchers, and are two very different things that could lead to success for a player, according to Dean Schuler.

“Command and control are two different things,” Schuler said. “You can have control and throw strikes, but when you have command, you’re hitting spots.”

Under the guidance of Etherton, Riehl believes he has improved his control and command greatly.

“I’m becoming a lot more consistent,” Riehl said. “That was something I have struggled with in the past.”

While a lot has changed for Riehl in the last four weeks, but has not changed his attitude.

“I am very blessed,” Riehl said. “I have a lot of people behind me and that just makes me work even harder. I am truly blessed. I get to wake up and know I have all these people behind me and get to live my dreams. It is awesome and is a great feeling.”

Schuler noted Riehl is enjoying his experience in Billings.

“He’s having a good time and he’s becoming very confident,” Schuler said. “He’s changing speed and hitting spots. He’s been having quite a bit of success.”

Even with his recent success, Riehl continues to understand how fortunate he is and that his current situation is something millions of people are only able to dream about.

“Just playing, that’s all I want to do,” Riehl said. “I just want to get out there and play and have fun. It’s awesome just to be able to wake up and go to the ballpark and be able to play the game. That’s the thing I want to do. Of course I’d love to get moved up, but the main thing is just to play. I love playing. It doesn’t bother me where I’m playing, because I’m still getting paid to play baseball. That’s a whole lot better than a lot of people got it.”

Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.