Published in the July 13, 2017 edition
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
Ryan McAuliffe has worked for this. He has hustled, sweat, scratched and clawed for an opportunity to prove himself. It has been a long road, but now this statement will serve as official verified validation of McAuliffe’s labor:
North Reading native, Ryan McAuliffe has signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets.
“This has been an experience of a lifetime that I couldn’t have even dreamed about,” said McAuliffe.
McAuliffe just completed his senior season pitching for the St. John’s University Red Storm, capping off a very successful two years, but the experience he is referring to goes back much further.
He started his collegiate career at Northern Essex Community College, where he spent his freshman and sophomore years pitching for North Reading’s own Jeffrey Mejia. McAuliffe dominated on the hill, leading the Knights towards consecutive NJCAA Division III World Series appearances and serving as team captain his sophomore season when he earned First Team All-America honors with a 12-4 record and a 2.44 ERA. His success on the diamond was due in large part to his dedication off of it.
“I was able to find myself both as a baseball player and a person at Northern Essex,” said McAuliffe. “Trying to handle baseball, school work, and working on the side is a lot to deal with, but coach Mejia did a good job of keeping tabs on us and making sure we excelled both in the classroom and on the field.”
And no, that is not the whole experience that McAuliffe is referring to.
A 2013 graduate of NRHS, McAuliffe played baseball for a legend.
“I was elated when he told me he would be signing with the Mets,” said Frank Carey, who spent four of his 48 years as a North Reading baseball coach mentoring McAuliffe. “This is what he’s been talking about since he was a 9th grader.”
It was Carey who helped shape McAuliffe’s work ethic and give him the confidence to believe that he was destined for much bigger stadiums than Carey Park.
“Coach Carey put a premium on hustle,” said Eric Popp, current NRHS head JV baseball coach and former teammate of McAuliffe’s in 2011. “He taught every player how to build discipline in themselves, which breeds hustle and the confidence it takes to succeed on the diamond.”
In that environment, McAuliffe flourished. He anchored the pitching staff as a sophomore in 2011 helping the team to a Cape Ann League championship, and the next year he led the team to its first state championship in nearly 30 years, and Coach Carey’s last.
“Ryan showed up as a sophomore in high school the size of Chris Sale, with a similar competitiveness,” said Popp. “He bought into the North Reading mindset immediately, worked on his game constantly, and because of that he built himself into a dominant pitcher.”
Carey believes that McAuliffe’s coachability really allowed him to take his game to the next level, which is a skill set he clearly took with him to Northern Essex and St. John’s.
“We worked with him and made a few changes in his pitching delivery and he was always willing to make those changes,” said Carey.
While McAuliffe clearly had a personal drive to be the best pitcher he could be, he credits much of his success to the guidance of Carey, who he still talks to from time to time.
“Playing for coach Carey has allowed me to grasp a better understanding for the game of baseball. He made you take a whole different approach on the game, and it is the reason many of us are still playing even five years later.”
“He would put the ball in your court,” said Popp of Carey. ““Here’s what it takes, here’s the resources of the North Reading baseball program, now go get it.’”
It’s a message that McAuliffe clearly took to heart. It lead him through his collegiate journey and it will guide him again as he starts a new expedition in the Gulf Coast League for the GCL Mets, located in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Yes, It has been a long road from Park Street to Port St. Lucie for McAullife, but the journey is far from over. McAullife has surely earned the right to smile and celebrate this milestone, but he has much more to earn.
“He’s extremely excited and happy,” said Carey. “I know he will do whatever it takes to make his dream come true.”