SIKESTON -- Ryan Poole, a third baseman and pitcher for the Sikeston Bulls, has signed a letter of intent to continue his baseball career at Southeast Missouri State University.
In doing so, Poole becomes the first Sikeston Bull player to sign with a college who wasn't already enrolled prior to his stint with the Bulls.
Sikeston head coach Jamie Puckett thinks Poole's signing will help the Bulls organization grow even more.
"That's huge for our program," said Puckett. "Not only does he help himself by getting signed by performing like he did, but he helps our organization. We can tell people that we had somebody sign and that can get us better players and people that want to improve."
Poole, a native of Bradford, Ark., is a Three Rivers Community College graduate, but his playing career ended in the spring of 2006.
Poole then signed with NAIA school Bellevue University in Nebraska, but the admissions department wouldn't accept 20 hours worth of credit, so he was forced to come back to Three Rivers for another year.
With his eligibility used up at TRCC, Poole wasn't sure if he'd ever play baseball again. That is, until the Bulls came calling.
A teammate at TRCC, Scott Hudgins, was already signed on with the Bulls. It was Hudgins that recommended Poole to Puckett.
"I missed it so much and didn't want to get out of it, so I figured 'what the heck,'" said Poole. "If this was my only chance to play I wasn't going to pass it up. Poole, 21, was always interested in SEMO, but an offer was never extended.
But after some solid performances on the mound, including one of the best of his career with SEMO coaches in attendance, Poole played himself into an offer from the Redhawks.
"My next goal was to finish with the Bulls and find a college to play for, and if it didn't happen I knew I gave it my best shot," said Poole. "But it worked out well for me. I'm going to a bigger and better place. SEMO is a school I've had my eyes on the last couple years. I wanted to go there straight out of junior college after my sophomore year. Just the atmosphere, being in Cape Girardeau and becoming a Redhawk is something that's been important."
Those dreams became reality after he struck out 12 batters in 7 2/3 innings against Owensboro.
Poole was the losing pitcher in a 2-1 game, but the SEMO coaching staff was so impressed with his presence on the mound that they offered him a few days later.
At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Poole is hardly an imposing figure on the mound, so he needed a standout performance to catch the eyes of the scouts.
"I was just on -- I just went out there and stayed focused," said Poole. "I saw them up there behind me, but I told (catcher) Chase (Kittinger) before the game that it was just me and him the whole game. I didn't want anything outside the lines bother me.
"That's probably one of my best performances with a scout there and probably one of my top two best starts I've had in a while, even though I didn't get the win out of it."
Poole, who also plays a solid third base for the Bulls, will be used only as a pitcher for the Redhawks. The right-hander says his fastball has been clocked at 88 miles per hour, but he consistently throws 85 to 86 and has a slider in the low 80s.
"He told me before the season that he wanted to go to SEMO," said Puckett. "I said, 'well, if you come down here and work your rear-end off, I'll make the call for you.' It was that simple. So he came in and worked hard and it got him to where he wanted to go. He made me look like a genius. I called SEMO and had them come down here and he pitches just a great game in front of them. That was the best game he's thrown.
"Hopefully he can set a trend for our program. It shows what we can accomplish here with people that want to work hard and want to go places."
Despite sitting out an entire season, Poole thinks the time off has actually benefitted him this summer.
"I think the break actually helped," said Poole. "Coming out of the 05-06 season, I had elbow problems midway through the spring season. I think sitting out kind of gave a chance for my elbow to heal. I haven't had any problems since so I'm thankful for that. I was kind of nervous at the beginning, but it's like I never missed a year. I've felt great all summer."
Poole can now reflect on his playing time with the Bulls and his opportunity at SEMO, something that may not have happened if not for Hudgins recommending him to Puckett.
"Playing for the Sikeston Bulls is a dream come true," said Poole. "I never thought that I would get the chance to play baseball again after sitting out a whole baseball season. I have to give it to coach Puckett for letting me come on the team. He's never seen me play before and I had sat out a year. So that's a big risk that he took with me."
Not only has Poole used the opportunity to find a place to play the next two years, but he has enjoyed being around his new teammates with the Bulls.
"The team's chemistry is one of the best that I've ever been on," said Poole. "The first four days we were talking to one another and there were no hard feelings if somebody took a position from somebody. These guys never give up. When we get behind, there's always somebody there to pick you up. That's one thing I can say, out of any team I've ever been on, is this team has the best team chemistry. We're just wanting to win and have fun and we're doing that."
So when Poole heads to SEMO in the fall, are his days with the Bulls over?
"I would love to come back and play next summer with the Bulls," said Poole. "If SEMO gives me the option of going to play somewhere else or coming back to the Bulls, I'd rather come back to the Bulls. I know the past few years the Bulls have been down, but know we're coming up and I don't want to give up on them now. I don't want anybody to give up on us because I know we're going to come back and be the team to beat in the next few years."