05/18/17 — D2 SOUTHEAST REGIONAL: Meet the Trojans' 'Ricky 2.0'

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D2 SOUTHEAST REGIONAL: Meet the Trojans' 'Ricky 2.0'

By Justin Hayes
Published in Sports on May 18, 2017 9:59 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The footage exists, housed on the server of an online prospect database for the world to see in perpetuity.

It dates to 2012, when Ricky Surum -- then a rising senior at Riverwood High School in Atlanta -- worked out for baseball lifers and regional demigod-types in Kennesaw, 30 minutes northwest of the city, as part of a still-thriving recruiting symposium facilitated by global branding agent Under Armour.

And his skill set -- a diverse, bottled-lightning mixture of confidence, finesse and speed, was present in spades.

Surum flashed fluid range of motion, moving easily around all parts of the six-hole, collecting fungo-whips en masse and firing to first base with a speed gunned at 84 miles per hour.

He also flashed handle, softly gathering the clean side of a backhanded stab and personally delivering an Ozzie Smith-inspired glove toss at second base to his acting station agent.

Surum's showcase run didn't stop there, however.

He also impressed at the plate, displaying a tight, hit-to-all-fields action that only served to enhance his position on the radar of draft boards and major college programs.

What was most interesting, however, was the interview session he provided videographers following the workout. When asked what he loved about the game of baseball, Surum replied quickly -- and succinctly.

"The game itself," he said with a smile. "Just playing it every day. I can't get enough of it."

Until he did.


The dugout can be a lonely post when one is slumping, and in 2016, his first year

in Pickletown, Surum staged his own running interpretation of Robinson Crusoe.

Looking up at the Mendoza Line for the better portion of the campaign, the once can't-miss-kid from the ATL was missing badly, wildly even, and becoming worse for the wear with each walk from the on-deck circle.

There were mechanical issues, he says, things like hand-load and timing, which bore inconsistency. On more occasions than he'd like to recall, Surum morphed advantage counts and grooved fastballs into bare-handed grabs for third base coach Rob Watt.

Further, there was the brewing mental battle -- one that formed in a cloud, gathered strike force in a hurry and blew through plate appearances like an EF5 tornado.

Suffice to say, his enthusiasm waned.

"From game one to game 55, (I was) stressing about every single at-bat," Surum recalled. "I had a poor attempt at adjusting to our approach... I would get out, and (say), let's go do the only thing I can do -- play defense."

So he did just that, and bolstered by a group of mates that always sinks or swims together, Surum finally turned a small corner toward season's end, hitting .330 over the last 60 days of play to reach .233 for the year.

Alas, light.

And with darkness no longer the only thing visible, he made a decision.

He would, at all costs during his final season, have fun.


May 1, 2017.

Reconstituted season-long by an outlook that refused to turn at-bats into matters of life and death, Surum sauntered to the box during the ninth inning of UMO's conference tourney tilt with old friend Belmont Abbey.

The stakes were palpable -- one out, last chance, bags juiced. Win or flush the regional.

Facing Crusaders' reliever Robert Frantzis, the newly-formed Surum -- or Ricky 2.0, if you will -- tendered perhaps his finest at-bat for the Green Machine, foregoing his .382 average and using patience to draw a game-ending, resurrection-confirming walk that skipper Carl Lancaster called "the biggest RBI of my career."

But it was much more.

It was the type of moment one can't produce if he is shaking scared or worse, yet to fail. It was the type of moment that is defined by shrewd perseverance, not physicality.

Moreover, Surum had fun with it -- much as he will likely do when UMO begins its hosting duties as part of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional this week at Scarborough Field.

"I'll embrace it," he said of the event. " This could be my last weekend of college baseball... (just) stay loose and have fun."

Sounds like old times.