PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays prospect Riley Unroe is always trying to outplay his baseball pedigree.
Unroe knew what he had to accomplish at each stage of his career. Having a father who had been a professional baseball player gave him the perfect benchmark.
“If it was little league and he hit .500 with 13 jacks, I needed to hit .501 with 14,” said the 20-year-old. “And that is what I lived my life by, trying to be one step ahead.”
Unroe’s father Tim made his major-league debut with the Brewers in 1995, playing for three teams before retiring in September of 2000 as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
He would play for one more year in Japan before hanging up the glove for good. Unroe was only seven-years-old when his father retired from professional baseball, but he still carries vivid memories of his father’s career.
“I remember being in Japan running around the bases, learning to speak Japanese,” Unroe said. “Hanging out with some of the pitchers, they would teach me how to hit my spots.”
Despite growing up around baseball, Unroe dabbled in numerous sports as a child. In addition to baseball, he played football, basketball, tennis, karate, and even some soccer while living in Japan.
“He really wanted me to get out and see what I liked, but I always knew I wanted to be like my dad,” Unroe said.
Perhaps the only deviation from his father’s career path is his position of choice. His father played first base, but Unroe was always enamoured with playing shortstop.
“Derek Jeter was one of those guys I looked up to,” said the switch hitting prospect. “I always loved the middle infielders.
“Watching the way they moved, the way they played the game, there was more effort. It was a lot of fun watching those guys.”
Unroe was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Rays. Though he struggled in his rookie year, Unroe bounced back batting .318 while racking up 25 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 55 games this past winter while playing for the Brisbane Bandits in Australia.
He hopes to continue his hot streak while playing for the Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods.
“I am just a little bit more relaxed,” said Unroe about his recent success. “I know what I am supposed to do, and the type of player that I am.”