Riegler’s road to recruitment: catching a spot on the University of Chicago baseball team

Kora Montana

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A flash of color creeps into the corner of DGS senior Brett Riegler’s eyes, then enters into clear view as the runner takes off for second base. Riegler snags the incoming pitch, transfers his weight and throws a dart to his shortstop on the second base bag. The runner is out by a mile, and Riegler adjusts his mask, crouches back down and prepares to receive another pitch.

This has become a common reoccurence for Riegler, the three-year member of the varsity boys baseball team and the recently named University of Chicago commit. Before freshman year, Reigler dedicated his baseball career to playing on the travel team Longshots; he played here since the age of eight.

Riegler started looking at the university ranked number three in the nation the summer before his junior year. 

“My dad heard about it. We knew the school was really good, and we knew they had a baseball team, but we didn’t really think it could be a fit, we thought that it would be way out of my league for academics,” Riegler said.

“Because UChicago is Division III I knew I could play baseball there, it was just a matter of getting into the school. Once I went to the camp I knew they liked me, they went and watched me play travel, watched some Longshots games, I know they talked to [Varsity Baseball] Coach Orel … That’s basically how it started,” Reigler said.

After talking to three other schools, Riegler chose to attend the University of Chicago for their academic reputation.

“[I chose the school] definitely because the academics are really hard, and it’s kind of scary to think about, but I want a challenge. Baseball wise, I mean it’s never safe to assume that I’ll play a lot, but I do think I’m a good player, and I do think I’ll have a good opportunity to play a fair amount there,” Riegler said.

“They also understand that academics are first, and they get how hard it is. They play less games than Division I so I’ll have more time to study and work academically. I think I fit in well there,” Riegler said.

Riegler’s mom, Barb Riegler, explained why she believes University of Chicago is the right school for Brett Riegler. “Brett will be greatly challenged. He will also be close to his family, which is very important to him,” Barb Riegler said.

Barb Riegler said Brett Riegler has always planned to play at the collegiate level, which is part of the reason why his recruitment to University of Chicago is a huge accomplishment for him and his family.

“Both of his brothers [played at the college level] and he just loves the game. He knows how proud his brothers are of him and of course his mom and dad too,” Barb Riegler said.

Longshots assisted Riegler in the recruitment process by coaching him to play baseball as a college-level-athlete would. “They really teach you what colleges are looking for …  they give you a good opportunity to practice a lot and get better which is really the biggest thing you need to do,” Riegler said.

The DGS varsity team also helped in the molding of Riegler’s success thus far. He explained that one of the greatest opportunities he’s had was getting to play on the varsity team as sophomore.

“It’s a good experience whether or not you perform well, it’s just a good life experience to have that pressure on you. Last year, even sophomore year and junior year, I was put in a leadership role catching. That really set me apart because I was able to work on my leadership, which really helps your development,” Riegler said.

His passion for baseball comes from the team aspect and the diversity of the game. “I like how there’s two sides, defense and offense … [in] baseball you play defense for an inning, you hit for an inning, and you can focus on both. I just like the team feel and playing both sides,” Riegler said.

Varsity Coach Darren Orel explained that Riegler has been a team role model in terms of his authority as a player.

“He is the kind of guy who’s a coach on the field. I’ll miss that, and I love those kind of players who know what the coach wants so well that they can go out and just do it … Brett is an athlete who leads it. He knows what needs to be done, he knows what’s expected,” Orel said.

Their coach and athlete relationship goes back to when Reigler was just four years old, making it something really special to the both of them. Orel said he’s had relationships like this with a few other players, but they were only close to the bond him and Riegler share.

“I remember getting kicked out of a game one time when his oldest brother was playing. …  I went over in the stands and he wanted to play catch with me. So there he is, as a three year old, playing catch, and to see him from that point as this little guy all the way until now. He’s just become so mature, such a leader and he’s developed so much,” Orel said.

In order to get to this point, Riegler talks about the work he’s had to put in to maintain his success. In terms of academics, the standardized testing portion caused a major hurdle for him.

“The biggest thing was how can I get my [ACT] score up. I took it twice, I got a 26 both times, not going to work for UChicago, or even any of the schools I wanted to go to. Then I got a 29… and that is the minimum they accept for sports there. Academically, it was always work hard, study, and then lets see if I can get a high enough score on the ACT,” Riegler said. 

“Athletically, it was more of develop as a player and watch what really good players do, because that’s what sets you apart, doing the little things and doing them really well,” Riegler said.

His mom agrees he has a strong work ethic when it comes to achieving a high GPA. “Brett never gives up. If he gets a grade that he is not pleased with he works hard to get it higher next time. He has become a mature baseball player and can focus totally on the game,” Barb Riegler said.

Riegler has a girlfriend at DGS, senior Lauren Kelly. They will both be playing sports in college, Kelly will be attending Judson University to play soccer. However, they plan to keep their relationship going in spite of the busy schedules headed their way that come with being a college athlete.

Kelly said she knows Riegler has put in a lot of time to get where he is now, and is looking forward to see what the future holds for him.

“It’s really exciting [to see his success] because I know that he’s tried really hard to do well. He wanted to play Division I, but it didn’t work out so playing at somewhere as good as UChicago makes me really happy for him,” Kelly said.

Kelly and Barb Riegler said they both try hard to support Riegler both academically and athletically. His mom said one of the most important things she does is keeping him fed.

He burns off so many calories because he is so busy that he eats constantly. Brett appreciates “home cooked” meals and tries to stay away from fast food. I also make him a good breakfast every day to start the day strong,” Barb Riegler said.

Kelly said Reigler is also a huge support for her and her athletics and in school. “He always pushed me to do better. I always try to go to his games, and if he gets a bad grade on a test I always encourage him to do better next time,” Kelly said.

Besides his girlfriend and mom, Riegler said his dad has been his biggest supporter throughout his baseball career. His dad is also someone Riegler looks up to not only when it comes to baseball, but if and when he decides to become a parent.

“He had a dad, but [his dad] never treated him the same way he treats me. Athletics wasn’t a big deal in the family and he was never pushed. You don’t know really what you want growing up so sometimes you need that extra push that you might not want until you realize that you’re glad you were pushed,” Riegler said. 

“Since he didn’t have that, I really looked up to him like how did you know how to do this, how did you learn to do this. He didn’t know that much about baseball, he had to read a lot of books and learn so much. He taught me what it means to be a good parent and I love him for that,” Riegler said.

Not only did Riegler’s dad stand as a role model for him, but also a friend.

“He’s been with through the ups and downs, good times and bad, when things weren’t going my way and when they were. When it’s going tough he’s just always there to throw pitches to me, to work on hitting, he’s always there when I have to vent. He’s just been there for me for the last ten years, through the whole journey,” Riegler said.

Riegler explained has come easy to him most of his life, but like any athlete, there were still challenges he had to overcome due to his size physically.

“The biggest thing, recently, was how can I set myself apart size wise because I’m not the biggest kid, and that’s what colleges are looking for. They look for big players [who are] 180 lbs, 6’2’’, really strong kids and I’m never going to be that, I never was,” Riegler said. 

“That has been the biggest thing, the last year or two, [is] how can I show colleges that I’m still really good, I’m still a college player even though I’m not the biggest kid,” Riegler said.

Within the next year, Riegler plans to achieve many goals in regards to both ending high school and becoming a freshman all over again.

“This baseball season, I want to have a lot of fun because it’s my last year. My two main goals are to have fun and stay healthy … Even though I just committed, I want to make sure I do what I’ve been doing the last three years. I don’t want to get out of line and stop studying, I want to stay who I am, and try to have fun while I’m doing that because it is my last year of high school. [I want to] try to enjoy it a little more,” Riegler said.

Barb Reigler and Coach orel have both expressed their pride in  Brett Reigler and anticipation for what lies in the path ahead of him.

“Brett has worked really hard for everything he has accomplished. I, of course, am really proud of him. He motivates me,” Barb Riegler said.

Orel said along with his excitement, he is going to miss Reigler’s positive influence on the DGS varsity baseball team. “He’s not afraid to challenge guys and challenge a situation but he does it in a way that never comes across negative. He just wants what’s best for the team first, and then obviously however he fits into that as well; he’s very unselfish in that way.

“I think while he leads outwardly and people follow that outward, vocal leadership he displays, they also follow his example in terms of what he physically does, it’s not just talk, he models it as well and then they see that … Yeah, he’s a special one,” Orel said.