Diamond In The Rough : Ryan Sebra

What's more challenging? Climbing Mount Everest, or taking a journey through baseball in the likes of Ryan Sebra? You decide as you read about Sebra's journey to the Los Angeles Angels farm system. (photo : Jerry Espinoza)

SAN BERNARDINO -- Out of high school, he was undersized - no scholarship. Out of junior college, he was committed to a Division I program - coach fired, lost scholarship. Out of separate Division I school - not drafted. Signed as undrafted free agent - no room on roster, benched.

The journey to professional baseball was about as challenging as climbing Mount Everest for Los Angeles Angels' minor leaguer, Ryan Sebra.

Out of high school, Sebra did not receive an offer to any Division I school, and headed to Florida State College at Jacksonville, a junior college, where the only scholarship he received was books being paid for. While there, he was told he'd play shortstop - it didn't happen. A transfer from Auburn, who Sebra notes is "still the best defensive shortstop I've seen," took that role away from him, and he was soon strictly going to the mound. Suddenly, baseball was not the concern.

Ryan received a call noting that his father had gone into a coma for liver failure. As any son would do, Sebra left the team for a few weeks to be at his father's bed side. His father, former swingman reliever and six-year Major League veteran, Bob Sebra.

Bob got better, and Ryan returned to school. To his surprise, he was put at third base instead of the mound, and the story began to mold, as his name never left the lineup card with him starting at the hot corner. Sebra was named All-State as a freshman, and Second-Team his second year. Schools began to take interest.

"The only person who believed I could play at the next level was my dad," said Sebra. "So, as much as my dad would say, I might not have showed that I was listening to him, but deep down he's always been right as much as I don't want to believe him."

The off-season after Sebra finished at junior college, he began looking at offers, but it still remained that no Division I schools were offering. The one that did came from Cincinnati, and coach, Brian Cleary. Sebra began telling other schools he was heading for Ohio to play Division I baseball. Soon after, Cleary was let go by the team, and Sebra's scholarship was gone.

He opted for Jacksonville State, where he hit .317 with 13 home runs and 91 RBI, while holding a 5.80 ERA on the mound over two years. Though not dazzling, they were respectable numbers from a program who has seen it's fair share of draftees. It would only be sensible that Sebra heard his name on draft day, right?

"I watched every pick of the draft, every single one, which I was told never to do. Didn't see the name," Sebra said.

A few days passed by, and Sebra thought his playing career was finished. That was until his father, the one he could always trust despite not showing it, called his old agent, Barry Meister, who returned with a phone call not long after. Bobby Scales and the Angels were going to give him a shot, and Ryan was excited and ready.

He reported to Tempe, Arizona, where the Arizona League affiliate played their games, a uniform in the locker with a number and the works. Once again, a rut.

Elio Sarmiento, the manager, and bearer of bad news, gave Ryan the words he didn't want to hear. There was too many players on the roster, and he had to be inactive. No cleats, no time in the dugout, just the uniform. That's all he could hold onto as a professional baseball player.

"I've always played with a chip on my shoulder. I had something to prove. When you're inactive, you start questioning yourself. You start forgetting if you can actually do it."

Two weeks, two callups, two injuries and a move from third to short, and suddenly that uniform became cleats, a glove, a bat, and a spot in the starting lineup. Sebra showed that he remembered how to do it all. 26 games as a professional by the end of the year, and made his mark in that short time. He finished the year with a .346 average, eighth best in the league and .436 on-base percentage, seventh best.

Then, another challenge, and once again, something he had no control over. A new general manager, and staff across the system. Sebra, an undrafted free agent, was near the bottom of the ladder in terms of having a name that's recognized by any member of the new Front Office.

"Having a dad that played professional baseball, I know that free agents, they're not the cream of the crop. I knew I had to come into Spring Training and hit, and somehow I made [the High-A] roster. I have no idea how, I was more shocked than anybody."

High-A Inland Empire, the landing spot and location for Sebra through the 2016 season. Once again, limited time, but Sebra has a uniform on his back, and is playing at the higher mid-levels of the minors. As a utility infielder, Sebra has found streaks over the season, but not seeing regular at bats is a challenge for all baseball players to get in a groove.

"Obviously when it comes to playing time, everybody would like to play every day. But I understand the business aspect from it. At the same time I'm here and I love this group of guys, if this is my role, I'll accept it and that's fine with me."

So now, a professional baseball player who has seen the odds against him through his entire career has a new hurdle to jump over. Going from a high schooler with no scholarships, to an excelling junior college player with a scholarship thrown out, to a professional baseball player who was inactive, to a utility infielder in the mid-minors, Sebra is ready for whatever is ahead.

All for the love of the game, and honor for the team who gave him a chance

"I love the game of baseball," said Sebra with a smile. "If I'm not playing, I'm in there every pitch. My dad always told me, the best job you can have is playing the game."

"If I were to be released tomorrow, I'm gonna be an Angels fan the rest of my life because they gave me the opportunity to play the game I love."

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