As he neared the end of his physical rehab in late June, Ryan Uhl couldn’t predict where he would spend the rest of his summer. Such is the life of a minor league baseball player.
Perhaps Everett, Washington, where his professional baseball career began? Or maybe Clinton, Iowa? Both? Truth be told, either destination suits Uhl just fine, so long as he’s playing baseball again.
A year after graduating from IUP and being selected by the Seattle Mariners in the seventh round of the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Uhl is still chasing his baseball dream.
He had a promising first season in the minors, but it ended on a bad note as he injured his lower back last September. Uhl tried rehab first, but it turned out he needed surgery. He took it in stride, devoted himself to getting back to playing shape as soon as possible, and finally reached that point in June.
“I’m just ready to get back out there,” Uhl said by phone from the Mariners’ training facility in Arizona, where he had been recovering from surgery since late January. “Right now, I’m feeling really good, and I’m probably in the best shape of my life, too. I’m just itching to start playing again.”
Less than a week after getting drafted last year, Uhl signed his first professional contract with the Mariners and reported to their Class A Short Season affiliate, the Everett AquaSox.
Three days later, on June 18, 2015, Uhl made his professional debut and went three for three, drove in a run, and scored a run in Everett’s season-opening game. He went on to play in 60 of the AquaSox’s 76 regular-season games at first base. Uhl finished the season with a .259 batting average (52-for-201), hit four home runs, and had 35 RBIs to go along with a .352 on-base percentage and a .393 slugging average.
“I honestly didn’t have any idea what to expect,” he said. “Everything turned out pretty great, if you ask me, and I really enjoyed all of it. It was a win-win, playing that many games and getting that many at-bats.”
Then, in Everett’s first playoff game, he injured his back, and he’s been on the road to recovery ever since. But despite his injury, Uhl must have made an impression on the Mariners. They promoted him on April 7 and assigned him to the Class A Clinton LumberKings’ opening-day roster. It’s the next step up from the Class A Short Season, and one step closer to the major leagues.
Uhl has been on the LumberKings’ roster all season, though he missed the first half. He expected to get back on the diamond in early July, but he wasn’t sure if he’d be with the Everett AquaSox again or the LumberKings.
“I had hoped I’d done enough [last season] to earn a promotion, and I was looking forward to going there [to Clinton],” Uhl said, “but things just didn’t turn out like that. We’ll see what happens.”
Regardless of where he ends up, Uhl is content. He’s living out his baseball dream, and that’s exactly where he wants to be.
“This is absolutely what I want to do the rest of my life, as long as I can,” he said.