ASHLAND, Ohio – Playing baseball every day. Sitting for three-hour photo shoots. Talking shop with some of baseball's all-time greats. Just a typical summer for Derek Jeter or Albert Pujols, right? Probably.
But it's also how Ashland University baseball player Ryan Avery (Berea, Ohio/Cuyahoga CC) spent his summer.
The senior outfielder was featured on the cover of the summer issue of the NCAA's Champion magazine that was distributed to schools and subscribers across the country.
Avery was called into head coach John Schaly's office where Schaly and sports information director Al King told him about the opportunity to give both the university and Avery some publicity.
"Usually when I get called into the office it's either 'you're in trouble,' or 'you need to do extra work,'" said Avery. "You hate getting called into the coach's office, even though it could be good. You always think, 'what did I do?'"
Of course, the news that came was welcome to Avery.
"They told me the NCAA puts out a magazine and they want to feature a successful minority athlete from the Midwest and my name came up right away," said Avery. "It was really cool. I had never heard of it. When they said that, I thought, 'that's awesome.'"
He said he provided King with some of his background information to give to the magazine's editors for the selection process. After the process, the magazine called Schaly, who told Avery at practice that he had been chosen for the cover story.
Avery had a phone interview with the writer, Gary Brown, and conducted a three-hour photo shoot at Donges Field, where he took swings in the cage and posed in the dugout and in the outfield. (Fans view an electronic version of the magazine feature and the cover HERE. Avery's feature is on pages 36-37.)
"It was a lot of work," Avery said. "Yeah, it's just taking pictures, but it's very extensive. I felt really important."
The magazine came out in mid-July and Avery immediately started getting the feedback.
"I know people across the country that saw it. I know a kid at North Dakota State and said, 'Man, I see your magazine out here. That's crazy.' Another friend in California asked why my face was on a magazine out there," Avery said.
"It was really cool. I really started to think, this is really big."
He said he received 50 copies of the magazine and a CD with all his photos from the shoot.
"My parents thought it was great," said Avery.
As if being on a magazine cover wasn't enough, Avery also spent his summer playing in the New York Collegiate Baseball League for the Cooperstown Hawkeyes, for whom he hit .310 with two home runs and a team-high 30 RBI.
The NYCBL features players from across the country, including many pitchers and hitters from ACC and SEC schools, like Kentucky, LSU, Auburn and Wake Forest. A couple of the league's alumni include Atlanta Braves ace Tim Hudson and Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence.
"The competition was phenomenal," said Avery. "You had to play really well, do the little things and execute."
Spending a summer hitting against top Division I pitchers should help Avery reach new highs when the NCAA season gets under way in March.
"I'm feeling really comfortable in the box," Avery said. "I'm more comfortable than I ever have been at Ashland, so I think it'll be a good year."
While in Cooperstown – home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame – Avery also got to spend some time with Hall of Famers.
"The Hall of Fame held a parade and the whole village came out," said Avery. "We were in it and I got to meet (former Cardinals shortstop) Ozzie Smith and take a picture with him. I got to meet (former Expos and Mets catcher) Gary Carter and (former Yankees closer) Goose Gossage.
"They're really nice guys. Yeah, they're great icons, but they're just regular people who like to talk baseball. They know who they are, but they're not arrogant."
Playing baseball in the city that breathes the sport was a rewarding experience for Avery, who had never been to Cooperstown before the summer.
"The city was awesome. It's completely baseball-oriented," said Avery. "Every café is baseball-related, like the Doubleday Café and the Triple Play Café.
"It's a small-town atmosphere. The people come out and watch games. Little kids surround you after the games and get autographs," said Avery. "It made me feel like 'this is what I want to do. I can see myself doing this.'"
That's exactly what he'll try to do once the season is over.
"I want to enter the (MLB Amateur) draft," said Avery. "That's my ultimate goal."
That would make for another typical summer in the life of Ryan Avery.