He’s Catching Fire

USD catcher Riley Adams


The Toreros had finished pregame warm-ups and, in USD tradition, some of the players were completing final groundskeeping chores: dragging and watering the infield, ensuring a rosin bag was placed just so behind the pitching rubber.

Torero fans found their seats on the third base side; a tiny handful of UC Irvine Anteaters faithful gathered along first base.

Behind home plate, a dozen or so men were scattered among the Torero fans. They weren’t there for peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jack. They were armed with notebooks, stopwatches and radar guns.

Scouts for major league teams, they were at Fowler Park to evaluate in person a very short list of those who may be able to play at the game’s highest level.

Torero catcher Riley Adams was at the top of their lists.

Adams, who prepped at San Diego’s Canyon Crest Academy, was among the 55 players on the 2017 Preseason Golden Spikes Award List, as well as being a preseason All-America and a candidate for the Johnny Bench Award, given annually to college baseball’s best catcher.

“With most every player, there’s what we call the ‘yabut’ syndrome: He can throw; yeah, but he can’t hit. He can hit; yeah, but he can’t run,” says Torero coach Rich Hill.

“It’s not that Riley doesn’t need to improve on things — sometimes he needs to shorten up his swing and work on throwing accuracy — but he’s got all the tools to be a great pro. Catching is the most difficult position on the field. You have to position the defense, handle the pitchers and then do a 180 and become a hitter.

“Riley’s very cerebral, and he handles that challenge as well as anybody.”

Fowler Park has in recent years become a regular stop for major league scouts. Adams is the latest in a line of Toreros who have commanded attention from major league baseball teams on draft day.

In 2016 alone, four USD players were tabbed by major league teams: Bryson Bergman (Seattle Mariners), Ryan Kirby (San Francisco Giants), Gary Cornish (New York Mets), and Taylor Kaczmarek (Kansas City Royals).

Bergman’s selection marked the fourth consecutive year a Torero was taken in the draft’s first three rounds, following Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs, 2013), Connor Joe (Pittsburgh Pirates, 2014) and Kyle Holder (New York Yankees, 2015).

Adams could well make it year number five.

“Lots of scouts tell me Fowler Park is their favorite destination,” Hill says.

“And it’s not just because it’s a beautiful ballpark on a beautiful campus in a beautiful city.” — Timothy McKernan

Update: Adams was selected in the third round of the MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Toreros have had a player taken in the first three rounds in each of the past five seasons

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