PORT ANGELES — Lefties outfielder Ronnie Rust only knows one speed — all out.
Witness the spectacular grab he made last Friday night at Civic Field as Rust slammed into the temporary fence in center field while chasing a deeply hit fly ball, tumbling head over feet all while holding onto the ball for the out.
Rust, a second-year returner for Port Angeles, isn’t changing how he plays the game even if he knows the end of his competitive baseball career may come in mid-August when the Lefties wrap West Coast League play.
Plays like Friday’s nifty nab show why Rust was such a valued commodity as both a football and baseball player coming out of Portland’s Central Catholic High School.
Unfortunately, Rust has been saddled with some of the worst injury luck imaginable and hasn’t been able to make nearly as many dazzling grabs in the field or barreled up base hits at the plate in his college career as he’s most certainly capable of producing
Shoulder surgeries to repair a torn labrum piled up and a scholarship offer to play baseball and football for Oregon State was pulled off the table when he was a high school senior.
A preferred walk-on position with the Oregon football team opened up but two more labrum tears sent him on to play baseball at Skagit Valley.
A hamstring tear 18 at-bats cut short his 2018 season with the Cardinals and Rust suffered a different sort of tear, the medial collateral ligament in his knee, that stole half of his redshirt-sophomore season this spring at Skagit Valley.
“I tore my MCL in my knee about halfway through the year, it was an eight-week recovery, so I was out for the rest of the season,” Rust said. I was blocking a ball behind the plate, kicked my leg out and felt it. It’s unfortunate, yet another injury, but hey, I’m still trying to play.”
Rust has already received two medical redshirts and could apply for a third for the knee injury which he said could make him essentially a freshman eligibility wise.
“I’d love to just be able to play,” Rust said. “I don’t have a whole lot of expectations as far as playing ball at a school next year. It all ends at some point and that might be near for me or it might be far for me, but I’m going to play it out, that’s all I can do.
“Why would I walk away if I still have the chance?”
So Rust is back at it, recently returned to full strength after recovering from the knee injury and back with Lefties manager Darren Westergard and hitting coach Trevor Podratz, who also serve as assistants at Skagit Valley.
“I love playing for Darren and Trevor, so coming back is just the best fit,” Rust said.
And the confines of Civic Field have been friendly to Rust.
“Shoot, I always feel so comfortable coming back here and playing in Port Angeles, living with my host family, [Wilder Junior baseball coach and Port Angeles Police Officer] Zac Moore and having Trevor Rosenberg as my roommate.”
As for what’s next if baseball doesn’t offer up another playing opportunity, Rust has a direction he’s likely to follow.
“Realistically, it’s going to be hard to convince another school to give a guy my age with my injury history another chance,” Rust said. “I can understand that.”
Rust said he enjoys working with his hands outside of baseball and would probably pursue a career in construction management if a college doesn’t come calling.
He said he enjoys the feeling he gets after the end of a long work day, when he can look at the progress he’s made on a project.
His dad Vic owns the family construction business, but Rust said nepotism doesn’t fly in his family.
“I’d have to earn it and buy the business from him,” Rust said. “That’s not how it works in our family, nothing is given. My dad bought the business from my grandfather. That kind of work ethic, I definitely think it’s been passed down and it influences how I play the game. I’m always going to go all out.”