Ritchie Price making strides at South Dakota State

About the time most of us start playing T-ball or coach-pitch, when the bats are about as big as we are, Ritchie Price was learning the intricacies of baseball.

When he was 7 years old, he would sit around the house and listen for hours as his father, Ritch, would talk about hitting and pitching philosophies with other coaches.

Today, Price is in his second year at South Dakota State University and at age 26 remains the youngest NCAA Div. I head baseball coach.

Price began playing when he was 3, and spent much of his youth on the road following his father to games.

“That’s when I knew, and I could see at very young age that he had a passion for the game,” his father said.

When Ritch became Kansas University’s coach in 2002, Ritchie followed and went on to set career records in hits, games played, at-bats, runs scored, hit-by-pitches and sacrifice bunts while playing shortstop.

After graduating in 2007, the New York Mets took Ritchie in the 18th round of the June free agent draft. He played one season with the Kingsport Mets, a minor-league team, before deciding to coach.

For Price, the choice to go to South Dakota State was natural. At SDSU he started as an infield coach, third-base coach and recruiting coordinator. When head coach Reggie Christiansen resigned in 2008, Ritchie took the job on an interim basis and by the end of the season it was his.

“He took that job so he could finish his masters and so he’d be allowed to recruit and continue to grow as a coach,” the elder Price said. “It’s like I tell him all the time, you know I was a high school coach at the same time in my career, so he’s got 14 years on me.”

As head coach, he has a lot to deal with — team morale, recruiting and game-planning all come with the new territory. When he has questions, he often calls his dad.

“We’ve always been really close,” Ritch said. “I think one of the things that’s been really fun for me as I’m now in my 32nd year of the game is he calls me almost every single day and we talk about things that are happening in his program and mine and he asks me questions, runs ideas by me.”

According to young Price that communication has been crucial, especially in recruiting.

“One of the first things I learned is that no matter how hard you work, if kids turn you down you don’t have anything to show for it, you’re back at ground zero,” Ritchie said. “That can really set you back, and it was frustrating at first, but then you just have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are and where you’re at.”

For the Prices, it’s all about the process.

“One thing that we’ve always believed is that you chase your dreams and whether you succeed, good or bad, you have to live with that,” the elder Price said. “For Ritchie, he played at the University of Kansas, played in the Big 12 championship, he got a chance to play professional baseball and today he’s a head coach at a major university. I mean, that’s what it’s all about.”

Price led the Jackrabbits to third place in the Summit League as a rookie coach last year, and reached the conference postseason championship game.

The ‘Rabbits are off to an 8-5 start this spring and own victories over Arkansas and Minnesota.