Top catcher brings a thoughtful approach to baseball

When Encinitas native Riley Adams was merely 4 years old, his father introduced him to a baseball coach. “When you’re a kid, your parents try to put you in all different sports to see what you like,” remembers Adams. “My dad was friends with the baseball coach from UC San Diego, and he’s the one who got me into baseball.”

Fast forward about 15 years, and today Adams is one of North County’s brightest baseball stars who’s getting local and national recognition for his talents on the field. This fall, Adams is set to attend USD to play baseball — just the latest chapter in a long history for the young player who even lured the interest of a plethora of MLB teams earlier this summer.

“All my life I wanted to pursue baseball, but that’s every kid’s dream coming up,” explains Adams. “It was definitely the sport I caught on to the most.”

That passion led Adams through his career playing recreational ball as a kid and earned him a spot on the well-known Encinitas Reds travel team at age 7. Adams’ baseball trajectory hit another milestone when was a freshman attending Canyon Crest Academy.

“I made varsity as a shortstop,” Adams says, looking back. “After that first season, our team didn’t have a catcher. So my head coach asked me if that was something I was interested in.”

It turns out that the varsity team’s coach that year was Ryan Sienko, who made a career as a catcher himself in the minor leagues. As as result, Adams was learning catching from an ideal teacher.

“He’s the one who showed me the ropes concerning all things catching,” says Adams. “That’s how I really got noticed.”

At the same time, he was becoming a star player on the Canyon Crest basketball team, and throughout his entire high school career, Adams improbably dominated both sports while attending Canyon Crest Academy.

However, Adams’ varsity career in baseball was always his main focus, and his time in high school coincided with the trajectories of a variety of North County athletes who began wooing national attention, adding up to a sort of golden age for regional high school baseball — whether it’s Cathedral Catholic’s Brady Aiken (June’s No. 1 MLB draft pick); or Maxwell McNabb, the La Costa Canyon alum who was recruited by the Padres.

Adams is quick to point out, however, that his only plan was to take full advantage of whatever came his way, noting, “My whole belief going through high school was that if you’re good enough, someone will find you.”

It turns out that that basic belief served Adams well; before long, during the fall of his senior year, professional teams around the nation started to take notice of his talents.

“They started following my progress and coming to my house to meet me. I’ve had conversations with pretty much all the major league teams leading up to June’s MLB draft.”

The result of that wooing gave Riley a spot during the coveted draft, where the cream of the nation’s baseball crop are up for grabs to be recruited. When Riley’s name was called during the 37th round, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. However, during later negotiations, Adams wasn’t keen on the deal the Cubs were offering.

“When a team drafts you, they try to negotiate a signing bonus with you,” he said. “In the end, the money wasn’t enough to take me away from college,” where he had a scholarship waiting to play for USD. “I decided to uphold my scholarship.”

That keen sense of thoughtfulness about baseball has propelled Adams throughout his career so far. “It’s a crazy thing to get drafted, and just to be in the mix is a special thing that not many people get to experience,” Adams said. “According to MLB rules, you have to go to college for a minimum of three years in order to enter the draft again.”

Fortunately, Adams has fans in high places over at USD.

“I think he’s got special talent,” said Rich Hill, the well-known coach of the school’s baseball team during a January interview with U-T San Diego. “It’s pretty impressive watching him during batting practice. ... He’s a young kid with tons of potential. He’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be.”

Until the next time Adams can enter the draft, he plans to continue growing in his sport and take what comes to him day by day.

“As of right now, I’m not worried about getting drafted again in the future,” he notes. “I know that everything will work out in the end.”

Copyright © 2018, Encinitas Advocate
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