Ryan Van Volkenburg is just like any other baseball player – he just wants to play.
He's getting an opportunity to do just that this summer with the Joliet Admirals of the Midwest Collegiate League.
"I'm getting a lot of opportunities to play," said Van Volkenburg, a 2013 Lisle High School graduate and a member of the Lions' state champion baseball team. "I started the summer as a relief pitcher, but I've gotten more chances to start. I've been starting once a week. It's been going really well."
Van Volkenburg's summer season has been in sharp contrast to his spring campaign at Maryville University in St. Louis. On a team laden with veteran pitchers, he made just three appearances and one start, and pitched less than 10 innings. Yet he feels he left a good impression and has something to build on going into next season.
"I made my first start toward the end of the year and we won that game," he said. "I think I had a good shot as a freshman to show what I had."
Seeing more regular playing time with the Admirals has given Van Volkenburg the opportunity to develop his pitching repertoire.
"There were a lot of things my coach at school wanted me to work on," he said. "I've been working on my location and getting more speed, and I've been working on my off speed stuff.
"I've been experimenting with stuff all summer and developing all my pitches."
The MCL has a team, the DuPage County Hounds, based out of Benedictine University in Lisle, but playing in Joliet has worked out fine for Van Volkenburg. He is living at home and making a quick drive to Joliet for home games.
Maryville head coach Seth Von Behren has contacts in several states and was looking to send his players to leagues in St. Louis, Mississippi and New York. Van Volkenburg likes where he's at.
"I knew somebody from the Hounds, and it's the same owners as Joliet," he said. "They asked me if there was any way I could play this summer. It worked out."
Brian Czyl, another Lisle grad who was part of the state team and continued his baseball career at Oakton Community College, was also part of the Joliet team, but Van Volkenburg said Czyl's summer season was cut short with an injury.
Despite a stellar senior season at Lisle in which he went 6-1 on the mound and batted .360, making the jump to playing at Maryville, an NCAA Division II school, was a tough transition for Van Volkenburg.
"I would say I wasn't as prepared as I hoped I would be," he said. "I'm 18 and playing against guys who are 22, 23 years old. It's definitely a jump in experience, but now I'm ready for it."