There has always been a chip on Ty Rybarczyk’s shoulder.
Being undersized at 5-foot-9, the Hall graduate has lived a life full of doubts when it comes to his ability on the mound.
Rybarczyk showed he had skills at Hall where he was the ace on the Class 2A state championship Red Devils club.
He didn’t disappoint as a freshman at Parkland College last season either.
The No. 1 pitcher went 8-1 — the loss coming in the regional tournament — with one save, five complete games, three shutouts and a program-record 0.96 ERA along with 64 strikeouts and 10 walks in 65 innings pitched.
“I built off the other players telling me I couldn’t be a weekend starter at the beginning of the season,” Rybarczyk said. “I feel like that’s how my whole life has been being undersized. I’m always doubted and told what I can and can’t do. I just laugh at it because I know my ability and worth better than anyone.
“I’m extremely confident in what I do and have a huge chip on my shoulder. I plan on bringing that same energy to the Big Ten (Conference) and I’m going to build off what I did last season at Parkland. It’s going to be special and I’m extremely excited about it.”
After one year of proving the haters wrong at Parkland as he was Parkland’s Freshman of the Year, First-Team Mid-West Athletic Conference and MWAC Pitcher of the Year, NJCAA Region 24 Pitcher of the Year and Second-Team All-American, Rybarczyk has moved on to another level of competition as he has committed to play for the University of Illinois this season.
Parkland coach Jon Goebel hates to see him go, but he knew Rybarczyk had NCAA Division I level talent.
“He was great. From Day 1, he came in and never acted like a freshman at any point. We were a young pitching staff last year, so we needed that out of our freshmen.” said Goebel, who was a first-year head coach after being Parkland’s pitching coach for four years. “He is a leader by example type of kid that kind of keeps to himself. He’s an ultimate competitor.
“When he was on the mound, guys loved playing behind him. Everything about him was swagger and confidence. I really couldn’t have asked for a better performance from a freshman. To be honest, he never showed too many chinks in the armor the entire time he was here. It was pretty special.”
Goebel also saw the boulder Rybarczyk carries with him to the mound.
With Rybarczyk’s fire and determination, Goebel always knew he could count on his ace for a special performance.
“He brings high energy. He’s pretty animated on the mound — in a good way — and he’s very athletic. He’s unique in the way he fields his position because he’s like having another infielder out there,” Goebel said. “He’s an undersized kid so he has that chip on his shoulder. A lot of guys will see him out there at 5-9 and not think much of it. Then he’s at 89-91 MPH with a plus slider and he has a handful of strikeouts in the first couple of innings. Then it’s, ‘Oh, this is a little different than what we expected off of the eye test.’
“He has that little saltiness where he constantly wants to prove people wrong and show he can perform at the highest level although he is an undersized kid. He’s a big Marcus Stroman fan and by the way he carries himself and plays the game, it’s very evident that he looks up to Stroman. I think Ty is a guy who is behind the eight ball because of his size, but I think Ty is also the guy that whatever his goals and aspirations are, I would not count him out or bet against him to get there.”
Goebel isn’t the only coach who sees this.
Illinois pitching coach Drew Dickinson, who just wrapped up his eighth season with the Fighting Illini, saw Rybarczyk’s talent on the mound and his competitiveness during recruiting.
“A guy who has his skill set can fit in anywhere. He throws strikes and pounds the strike zone,” Dickinson said. “That guy is going to be a valuable asset where ever he may fit in the scheme of our staff. Do I think he could push to make starts? Yeah, of course because he showed that at Parkland and he’ll have every opportunity to show that here.
“Everyone wants to start. When you have 16 or 17 arms on your staff, there are only three or four guys that ultimately start. But, there are so many more innings out there that are valuable innings. With his ability to throw strikes, he’s a commodity no matter what innings he throws and where he fits into the scheme of our staff. There is a good possibility where he is our Tuesday starter. He could be a reliever or he could be our best seventh, eighth and nine inning pitcher. He’ll have every opportunity to show us and we’ll see where the pieces fall.”
Rybarczyk had quite a few reasons why he wanted to play for the Illini.
He wants a great education as he plans to study kinesiology, U of I is close to his family in Spring Valley, the move from Parkland to Illinois isn’t long and there is a familiar face in a blue and orange jersey in fellow 2018 Hall graduate Cam McDonald.
“Linking up with Cam is going to be special. Maybe we can do something like we did at Hall,” said Rybarczyk, who had a visit to Ball State University, calls from Purdue University and University of Maryland and interest from University of Louisville. “That’s one of the reasons why I did commit to Illinois because I wanted to play with Cam again. I think it’s going to be very special. Maybe this time we can win a national championship instead of a state championship.”
“It felt like home. With Parkland and Illinois both being in Champaign, it was an easy transition. I’m close to home. My family can come see me play at home games. That was one of the things that influenced me to go there along with the pitching coach (Drew Dickinson). I liked him a lot. I just thought it was a great fit.”
Rybarcyk said he learned about the importance of weight training and taking care of his body during his year at Parkland.
Last winter he was at 160 pounds and dropped to 147 by the end of the season, but he has been in the weight room and will come to his first Illinois practice at 170.
Rybarczyk feels the extra weight, the Big Ten competition and playing with one of his best friends will help him achieve his ultimate goal.
“The reason I went to Parkland is because I wanted to get drafted,” Rybarczyk said. “The opportunity came up to go to Illinois and I jumped. I want to play with Cam. I want to play in the Big Ten. I want to compete at that level.
“Hopefully, after my junior year I get drafted. I want to get drafted and I want an education. If I get drafted after my junior year, I want to go back and finish my education. The dream is to get drafted.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.