Selvaggi continues to honor his mother

Ryan Selvaggi started slow against Oklahoma and walked the first three batters he faced. It was the Southwest Regional championship’s first inning and the biggest game the Post Oak Little League had ever played at that point.

The situation could make nearly any athlete nervous. Instead, Selvaggi smiled at one point. This is a game, this is fun. Selvaggi has overcome a whole lot more than a bases-loaded, no-out jam and he embraces challenges like those.

Selvaggi struck out the next three hitters, threw four no-hit innings and hit a home run as Post Oak captured its first regional championship and reached the Little League World Series, winning, 8-0.

Somewhere, Wendy Selvaggi was smiling.

Selvaggi’s mother Wendy passed away from cancer when her youngest son was 7. She was the one who introduced Selvaggi to baseball and he keeps honoring his mother the best way he knows how.

“I think that’s his goal out there,” Selvaggi’s father, Ross, said. “It’s not always a specific discussion, but I think he’s always thinking of her. He is driven.”

Wendy took Selvaggi to his older brother Ross III’s games when he was 6. Sitting by his mother, watching his brother play, Selvaggi found joy. A passion was born and Selvaggi has grown more enamored each year as he has followed in his brother’s footsteps and become an elite player.

A team effort has helped Selvaggi become the player he is. As devastating as Wendy’s passing was, a fantastic support network helped Selvaggi continue flourishing as a person and a player. Helping Ross continue raising his sons were his sister Virginia, his Aunt Dee and countless other neighbors, friends and coaches. Together, they shielded Selvaggi, kept his spirits up and molded him into who he is now.

Ask most who know Selvaggi well and it is not his immense baseball talent they first bring up. Instead, the focus is the young man he is quickly becoming.

“If you met Ryan on the street you wouldn’t have any idea he is as gifted and athletic as he is. He is as humble as anyone I’ve ever met,” Post Oak Little League Major Division Coordinator Ramsey Evans said. “It comes from the challenges he’s had to face and how humble his family is. He’s grounded and he knows what’s important. He’s mature beyond his years and he leads by example. All the kids look up to him.”

Selvaggi need hardly say a word because his play speaks volumes. He is a five-tool threat who provides excellent pitching, power hitting and steady defense at three different positions. Selvaggi hit .500 in four Southwest Regional games, belting two home runs and scoring eight times. He also threw a six-inning perfect game before districts and hurled eight scoreless innings at regionals with 16 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings.

A glimpse at how dangerous Selvaggi is came in the Southwest final when Oklahoma intentionally walked him despite power-hitting Richie Klosek, who had a team-high nine RBIs in regionals, waiting on deck. It was basically Oklahoma picking its poison since Klosek hit a 2-run home run, but Selvaggi homered three innings later and ignited a game-breaking four-run rally.

“He’s the most talented hitter I’ve seen at 12 years old and he has great velocity on the mound,” Post Oak manager David Rook said.

“He’s a pretty special,” Post Oak Little League President Todd Johnson said. “It’s fun to watch him and all these other kids and they can walk away feeling really good about themselves.”

Selvaggi possesses super talent, but he has reached this level by embracing an old-school work ethic. Nobody ever pushed him toward that either. Ross supports him in everything Selvaggi does, but the yeoman-like baseball drive burns within.

His brother Ross III paved the way and has established himself as a strong player at the high school level, helping it capture two straight district championships. Selvaggi learned about defense, hitting, pitching and fundamentals watching his brother.

More important, Selvaggi learned that it takes more than raw ability to keep excelling. Selvaggi loves playing baseball, but he enjoys improving maybe even more.

“He has been around good baseball and he is focused on carrying it to a different level. He sees his older brother put in the time and the dedication,” Ross said. “He sees his brother handle baseball like a career, like a job. It’s a focus and it takes work every day.”

It also helps being a player who cannot be shaken. That opening inning sequence against Oklahoma was one of many examples. Selvaggi had to deal with the harshest of tragedies at such a young age. What he learned through the adversity was perspective. As much as he wants to perform well, Selvaggi realizes these moments are the joyful ones. He has overcome so much off the field, so fighting on-field battles became a lot easier.

This is a player as calm as he is gifted. When situations are their most tense, Selvaggi often is at his best.

“That’s that personality of not getting too emotional and not getting too high or too low. He’s real steady,” Rook said. “Ryan understood we were giving him the ball in the championship and were going to ride him for 85 pitches and he just kept grinding and not getting too emotional. A lot of guys would have gotten emotional or rattled in that first inning, but he didn’t and he remained steady.”

“That’s what life is all about. Baseball and sports are like life in a lot of ways,” Ross said. “In life you’re not going to be successful unless you make the other people around you successful.”

Look around the Post Oak dugout. Look around the Houston community. Selvaggi keeps doing that day after day. He has become a model baseball player and a model Post Oak representative.

“It’s really hard not too root for a guy like him,” Evans said. “He has such wonderful humility and he comes from a great family. He is never going to disappoint you with his character. He’s just a real special kid.”

And Selvaggi is every bit his mother’s son.