The scholarly look that glasses-wearing Ryan Sauter sports during Center Grove baseball games is genuine.
Sauter’s grade-point average (4.15) and acceptance into Indiana University’s prestigious Kelley School of Business starting the 2018-19 school year demonstrate the three-year starter’s ability to excel in the classroom.
And if playing the hot corner in eyewear looks even the slightest bit unusual to others, so be it. Sauter doesn’t think twice about it, since the eyewear have been part of his look since he first took up baseball as a 5-year-old.
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The glasses Sauter currently uses playing defense — the same ones he wears at school — are swapped for protective goggles every time he bats.
Considering his .394 career batting average, it’s difficult to find fault with that approach.
“There was a guy that used to call me Sabo,” Sauter said with a laugh, referring to Chris Sabo, a Cincinnati Reds third baseman for seven seasons (1988-93 and 1996) who wore wraparound protective eyewear while playing.
“I didn’t know why he called me that until my dad finally told me who Chris Sabo was.”
Center Grove is coming off an 18-9 season in which it lost to Whiteland in the first round of a Class 4A sectional. Coach Keith Hatfield’s squad opened its 2018 season on Saturday with games against Cathedral and Roncalli.
One of 14 seniors on the Trojans’ roster, Sauter and first baseman Mikey Wyman are the most experienced. Sauter played for the Center Grove freshman team in 2015 but was utilized earlier than anticipated as a sophomore.
“Things kind of fell into place. Ryan was always going to be on varsity, but I didn’t know he was going to start right away,” Hatfield said. “We had an injury to a senior third baseman that held him out something like five games.
“Ryan ended up starting, and there was no way he was going to come out of the lineup after that.”
Sauter’s first varsity start was Center Grove’s 4-2 victory over Roncalli. Those teams met 10 weeks later in the Class 4A Plainfield semistate, with the Rebels winning 8-5 on their way to a state championship.
The transition from freshman to varsity pitching took some getting used to.
“On the freshman team you’re probably facing (pitches) in the high 70s, and then my sophomore year you’re against Roncalli with (current University of Louisville pitcher) Michael McAvene, who’s throwing in the 90s,” Sauter said.
“I was definitely nervous, but I thought I was ready.”
The past two seasons netted 12 doubles for Sauter, whose coach is confident in the third baseman’s potential to be a deep-ball threat.
“We’ve worked and worked and worked on getting him to elevate the ball a little bit more,” Hatfield said. “Ryan was a solid line-drive hitter as a sophomore, but his power numbers went up last year. We want that to escalate even more this year.”
Sauter hit either sixth or seventh in the lineup as a sophomore, responding with a .408 average. Moved to third in the batting order last season, Sauter batted .380 and tied for the team lead in walks with 18 despite getting to look at fewer quality pitches.
He’ll hit third again this season, which is expected to be the final time Sauter plays organized baseball.
Expect the kid in the glasses to make the most of every bus ride, at-bat, scooped grounder and victory, this spring.
Ryan Sauter’s statistics from his first two varsity seasons: