Meet Riley Adams, USD’s preseason All-American

Riley Adams, a junior catcher on the University of San Diego baseball team, is one of the most polished players at his position in the entire nation.

As a sophomore during the 2016 season, Adams led the Toreros in several offensive categories. His six home runs, 18 doubles, 37 RBI, and .443 on-base percentage were all good for the team lead. He was also the only player to appear in all 56 games of the Toreros season, starting in every single one.

Adams’ offensive prowess, paired with his durability and defensive abilities behind the plate, have made him a hot commodity among Major League Baseball scouts. Baseball America, regarded by most to be the premiere source for amateur baseball news and notes, ranked Adams as its 37th best prospect for the 2017 MLB Draft. Baseball America also declared Adams a preseason All-American earlier this offseason.

It becomes apparent very quickly that Adams does not pay much attention to the hype of the outside world. Sitting on a bench outside USD’s state-of-the-art clubhouse, Adams appeared focused and driven. While most would take to the internet or social media to learn of their preseason All-American status, the 6’4” graduate of nearby Canyon Crest Academy revealed that he originally heard the news from his most-dedicated fans.

“Honestly, I feel like it was probably my parents [who told me],” Adams said. “They probably get to me first. I don’t really check social media a whole lot. My mom’s a big person on that. I think she was the one that probably saw it somewhere and texted me. It was cool.”

This low-key attitude, free from outside distractions, is something that has seemed to help Adams reached the high level of performance that he maintains today. As a high school senior, Adams was selected in the 37th round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. To hear Adams tell the story of why he chose to attend USD rather than sign with the Cubs, one gets the idea that he is supremely confident in his decision making.

“They had called me on the day of the draft saying, ‘Hey, if we got you around this pick and gave you this much money, would you accept it?’” Adams said. “For myself, personally, the money that they were offering wasn’t close to the experience that I would have had here [at USD]. I’m pretty glad for that.”

Major League Baseball scouts have raved about Adams’ arm strength as a catcher. Photo courtesy of USD Media Relations

The experience at USD has been a fruitful one for Adams. Apart from his personal achievements, the sweet swinging backstop has also been a part of several victories over nationally-ranked programs. As a freshman in 2015, Adams helped the Toreros knock off the No. 8 Texas Longhorns in Austin, Texas before traveling to Starkville, Miss. and winning two of three games against No. 7 Mississippi State University. The Toreros finished that season with a 33-22 record. Last year was a bit more of a struggle for USD, as their record slipped to 27-29, giving head coach Rich Hill his first losing season since 2011.

In what will likely be his last season of college baseball before the MLB Draft comes calling again, Adams is determined to bring the USD baseball program to a place it has never been before.

“The ultimate goal is definitely to get to Omaha [for the College World Series],” Adams said. “There’s a lot of good talent on this team, and a lot of old veterans. I think we’re very eager to get going.”

Adams and his teammates will get going on Friday, Feb. 17 when they welcome the Vanderbilt University Commodores for a three game series at Fowler Park. The Commodores are considered a consensus Top 10 team among college baseball publications. They are coming off a 2016 season in which they went 43-19, including three lopsided victories over USD by a combined score of 38-11.

The past does not deter Adams from having high hopes for this year’s matchup with Vanderbilt. In fact, his team’s poor showing against them in 2016 seems to motivate Adams even more for the 2017 installment.

“I think we’re definitely excited for Vanderbilt,” Adams said. “I think we’re all looking forward to that test. We went out to Vanderbilt last year; I don’t think we were as prepared as we should have been. We’ve done a much better job [this year] of getting in the right mindset.”

While the upcoming college baseball season is certainly at the forefront of his mind, Adams is acutely aware that this will be his last year in Torero blue. When the topic of mock drafts and preseason draft rankings comes up, both of which typically tout him as one of the best college catchers in America, Adams says that they are nearly impossible to keep away from.

“I’ve seen [the rankings and mock draft picks],” Adams said. “It’s hard not to see them. Everyone has their own opinion. I have my own of myself.”

University of San Diego junior catcher Riley Adams was named to Baseball America’s preseason All-American team on Jan. 30. Photo courtesy of USD Baseball/Twitter

Knowing that he will soon be a professional catcher, Adams provided some insight into who he emulates his game after.

“I love a guy like Buster Posey with the Giants,” Adams said. “He’s a big one. I just love to watch him. Everything he does from either catching or hitting, or just the way that he controls a game and the pitching staff.”

When looking at his baseball pedigree, it’s easy to assume that Adams has been a hardcore devotee of the game since a young age. However, he was also a star basketball player at Canyon Crest, averaging 21 points and 15 rebounds per game as a high school senior. Along with his accolades from the hardwood court, Adams is also a second degree black belt, something that he jokingly hopes he can put to use this year.

“Karate is actually the first sport I got into as a kid,” Adams said. “I started before I was three-years-old and did it up until eighth grade. If for some crazy reason there’s ever a fight that breaks out on the field, I like my chances to help our team out.”

Whether it’s in the batter’s box, behind the plate in his defensive crouch, or during a hypothetical karate battle with a West Coast Conference foe, Riley Adams is primed to help out the 2017 Toreros in a multitude of ways.

Written by Matthew Roberson, Sports Editor