LEWISTON, Maine -- Recent Bates graduate Ryan Sonberg '13 is now the first baseball professional to come out of Bates College since Jason Coulie '00 played in the Angels' minor league system.
Sonberg, a two-time First Team All-NESCAC shortstop, signed a contract to play in the independent Pecos League, for the Taos Blizzard, to whom he reported last week.
Sonberg earned the invitation after performing well at a recent pro tryout arranged by an Arizona Diamondbacks scout, who is also involved with the Frontier League and CanAm League, according to Sonberg. Bates head coach Mike Leonard learned of the tryout just days before it occurred, and passed the information on to the two-time All-NESCAC shortstop.
"Ryan has been such an awesome part of our program over these last four years," said Leonard, himself a former pro in the Boston Red Sox system. "I am so happy that he's getting a chance live out his dream of professional baseball."
In terms of further pro aspirations, signing a deal with the Blizzard represents a big first step, yet still a much longer way from the major leagues than Coulie had when he was picked in the ninth round of the 2000 MLB amateur draft.
Not to worry, mom and dad: Sonberg, an exceptional student who double-majored in mathematics and biochemistry and was recently inducted into the Bates Scholar-Athlete Society, still has every intention of returning to New England to begin work as a QA analyst for Eze Castle Software LLC in Boston, beginning in September.
Sonberg says his primary goal since his freshman year at Bates was to help the baseball program win a NESCAC championship.
Pursuant to that desire, like many of his teammates, Sonberg played high-level summer-league ball with other collegiate standouts after each season with the Bobcats, the highest level being his stint with the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod League, the result of a temporary contract he signed after his sophomore campaign at Bates. That experience, in particular, built confidence in Sonberg that he could play with the big boys.
"After seeing that I had the ability to play with that talent level, it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to work towards being drafted or signing with an affiliated team," Sonberg said. "The Pecos League is a step in the direction of reaching that goal."
Teams in the Pecos League, located in New Mexico and west Texas, play a 70-game schedule between early May and late July. Other teams include the Santa Fe Fuego, Raton Osos, Trinidad Triggers, White Sands Pupfish, Roswell Invaders, Alpine Cowboys and Las Vegas (N.M.) Train Robbers.
"If I end up having a good time and playing well down there, signing with a more established independent ball team in either the Frontier or CanAm Leagues is a realistic possibility, as is possibly being picked up by an affiliated ball club sometime after the draft later this month," said Sonberg. "I am certainly not going to try and do more than I can, and worst case this will just be a fun last summer playing baseball."