This time last year, Ryan Realmuto was scoring runs against Missouri. Now she is helping the Tigers as a volunteer coach.
After scoring two runs against the Tigers as Oklahoma State swept MU in a two-game series April 12-13, 2003, Realmuto touched base with Tigers coach Ty Singleton to inquire about job openings.
“Ryan contacted me with an e-mail the day after we played them last year and said she was impressed with the program and was looking for some (graduate assistant) positions or something like that,” Singleton said.
Realmuto, who graduated from Oklahoma State last year, was a four-year starter at catcher. She was named to the Big 12 All-Conference team each year.
“She stayed in contact with me for the rest of the spring and summer,’’ Singleton said. “I just kind of interviewed her over the phone. I knew that I liked her on the field; she was a leader on the field. I spoke with her on the phone and decided that her commitment and her passion would fit right in.”
Realmuto and former Tigers standout Barb Riti are freshmen when it comes to NCAA coaching, but not when it comes to experience.
Riti, 30, graduated from MU in 1997. She was a leading pitcher; she is tied for third in wins (78). After she graduated, as Barb Wright, she stayed in Columbia to be close to Rob Riti, a center for the Tigers who was an All-American in 1999.
She and Riti married last summer.
From high school to college
Riti spent the past five years teaching U.S history and government at Hickman, where she coached softball and track. She found it difficult to spend necessarily limited time with her high school athletes.
“The big thing when I coached in high school was I only got to see those kids a few hours a day for about a six- to seven-week period; that was the length of the season,” Riti said.
“Whereas here I’ve known these kids all year, got to know their parents, their siblings. That’s part of the benefit of being a college coach, you can know them on a more personal level.”
She worked summer and winter camps at MU under former coach Jay Miller. She also worked at last year’s winter camp with Singleton. He initiated the process of bringing Riti back to the MU softball team.
“They knew their other assistant, Karrie Rider, was not coming back next year so they gave me a call and asked if I’d be interested and began the possess to see if our philosophies meshed and they did,” Riti said.
Rider decided not to continue as an assistant for the Tigers after signing with the Houston Thunder, a National Pro Fastpitch team, this summer.
“Karrie got an opportunity to play professionally and she had already talked about moving down into the volunteer assistant role so she could be training full time,’’ Singleton said.
“Then in the process realized, she says, ‘I don’t think I can make this work, volunteering, training and also working on the side. She was just here actually the other afternoon hitting ground balls. She’s around a lot, but she’s not coaching.”
A softball summer
Realmuto also will play for Houston this summer.
She spends about 15 hours a week working on her game, getting ready for professional play. In its inaugural season, the NPF has a partnership with Major League Baseball. There are six teams in the league. It was formerly the Women’s Pro Softball League, which began in 1997.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to play ball all summer, make money, travel,’’ Realmuto said. “It’s pretty fun. I’m in training right now. I have plenty of time, practice is usually in the afternoon so I can get it all done in the morning.”
Less than a year has passed since the end of Realmuto’s college career. She said she has trouble curbing her desire to be out on the field during games but tries to transfer the intensity to MU players.
“It’s the hardest thing; I just want to get out there and play with the girls,” Realmuto said.
“In the games, I just want to get out there and help them win. I want to get out there, get a bat in my hand, and take an at-bat myself. In practice, I actually get to work with them so it makes it a lot easier.”
Young talent discovered
As the youngest member of the Tigers’ coaching staff, Realmuto has found herself forming unique relationships with players she used to play against.
“If she wasn’t a coach, she’d definitely be one of the girls on the team and hang out with us all the time,” catcher Morgan Kent said. “It’s definitely a line she’s very careful not to cross.”
Riti also takes time out to help those who play her old position, pitcher.
“One thing I like to do is between innings I’ll go get the pitcher her ball and give her a little piece of advice before the inning starts,” Riti said. “Sometimes they’ll come and ask me about different things, like spin or how’d you throw this pitch or how did you throw that.”Riti and Realmuto are successfully handling the transition to the often unglamorous job of coaching, Singleton said.
“A lot of coaches get into it from an ego standpoint of they were players and now they want to coach because they were players and it’s still about them,” he said. “And what I appreciate from Barb and Ryan is that it’s not about them, they’re here to serve and give and be an asset to this staff.”