Jordan Ribera is enduring the most boring month of his professional baseball career.
The Modesto Nuts first baseman has not played since May 25, and on Friday had the sutures removed from his right hand - the formal start of the physical rehabilitation process he’ll need to come back from hamate bone surgery.
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He won’t be back in the lineup by Tuesday. Far from it. But that won’t stop Tuesday from being a special day for Ribera and, indeed, for all San Joaquin Valley baseball fans.
It will be the fifth anniversary of Fresno State’s College World Series championship, won with Turlock’s Tommy Mendonca manning third base and claiming Series MVP honors..
“I have so much memorabilia, and a couple days ago I was looking at all of it with my mom - all the signed balls and everything,” Ribera said. “It feels like it was yesterday. The whole experience was something you dream about being able to do as a kid and then as a college player. To be able to do it with a team like ours, since we were such an underdog, made it that much more fun.”
Ribera is one of four current Modesto Nuts who had the good fortune to play in the College World Series in Omaha. Taylor Featherston and Kyle Von Tungeln played in the CWS as teammates at Texas Christian University, and infielder Niko Gallego reached Omaha with UCLA.
Two Nuts’ pitchers just missed. Oregon State reached the CWS during Kraig Sitton’s redshirt season and Ben Alsup was not on LSU’s travel squad when it played in Omaha.
“I still keep in contact with that whole team - it was such a close-knit group of guys,” said Ribera, who hit two home runs in Omaha. “That was my freshman year, and the guys who were seniors on that team, I felt like I had played with them for all four years. It was a special experience.”
Ribera, who went to Clovis West High School, works out with the Bulldogs every year before heading to spring training, and remains very close to head coach Mike Batesole. Close enough to have a pulse on the reason the Fresno State baseball program hasn’t been able to take advantage of the national boost in popularity it received from winning the NCAA title.
The Dogs went 21-31 this season, including a woeful 4-20 road record, and were 14-16 in Mountain West Conference play.
“I speak with Coach Batesole twice a week,” Ribera said. “He’s like a third parent to me and has been such a great influence to me and we’ve talked about why the Bulldogs haven’t been back. Some of the players he was counting on haven’t stepped up to be leaders and they’ve had some pitching struggles.
“I also think the new bat rules have hurt. The Bulldogs have started playing some small ball, and it’s never been anything Batesole likes to do. The game has changed, and Batesole was a coach who always liked the slugfest. In the last couple of years they’ve done a good job recruiting guys who are better at small ball and that’s what it’s going to take for the Dogs to get back to Omaha.”
As much as Ribera would love to see the Bulldogs return to glory, right now he’s concentrating on getting back into action. He was hitting .221 with two homers and 19 RBI at the time of his injury.
“I have five days of strengthening, then I get to grab a bat,” Ribera said. “It’s basically a pain tolerance thing and at this point of the season all I want to do is have a great second half and finish the season strong. I want to contribute any way I can.”
He flexed his hand while talking about the injury. A quick glance revealed he wasn’t wearing his national championship ring.
“I keep my ring in the box and my mom has it hidden,” Ribera said. “She knows that I’d probably lose it, so she holds onto it for me.”