Ryan Bronson claims there was a time when he wasn't a good baseball player.
"I struggled tremendously," said the Canyon del Oro junior after Thursday's 6-5 win at Amphitheater. "I was horrible at a younger level."
It's hard to believe that now as Bronson, at just 16 years of age, leads the Dorados in batting average (.419), hits (26), RBIs (24), doubles (8) and home runs (2) through 19 games.
Bronson was a part-time player as a sophomore last season, but has taken full advantage of his bigger role this year. He starts at third base and switches to catcher when starting catcher Cooper Smith moves to the mound as the Dorados' closer.
"We're lucky to have a junior that can play third base and catch and be very reliable in two very tough defensive positions," said first-year CDO coach Stephen Ambuehl. "It really opens things up flexibility-wise for us."
Bronson went 1 for 4 with a single and scored a run in Thursday's victory, while also throwing out an Amphi baserunner in the fifth.
Here are three reasons Bronson has transformed from struggling youngster to varsity leader:
1. Work ethic. Sure, it's cliché, but Bronson really seems to take it to a new level. Ambuehl calls Bronson a "seven-day-a-week player," and for good reason.
"If I ever show up to the field on Sunday to do some work, he's there," Ambuehl said. "I think he understands the role he's stepping into and he was more than ready to be that guy."
For Bronson, the numbers he's putting up now represent the fruits of some painstaking labor.
"I knew right off the bat I was really going to step it up this year," Bronson said. "I worked my (tail) off for it and put in the hard work. It's been an everyday grind."
2. Consistency. Bronson's countless hours of practice have turned him into one of the most consistent players on the team. He bats cleanup and that hasn't changed since Day 1.
"We've never had to move him out of that middle-of-the-order spot," Ambuehl said. "He's just taken that over and he wants to be in that position. We rely on him and we know what we're going to get."
"He starts rallies as a batter," Smith added. "When we're down, he usually comes up with a clutch hit to get the momentum going."
Defensively, it's more of the same.
"I love having him as a catcher," Smith said. "I've got confidence to throw balls in the dirt."
3. Coaching. Bronson has enjoyed tremendous support from his family (his parents and grandparents were in attendance Thursday) and plenty of good coaching.
Local legend Mike Hanson is Bronson's hitting coach, and Ambuehl spoke to the advantages of simply being part of the storied CDO program.
"With as much baseball as we play, as much good coaching as we have in the system, they play the highest level baseball possible," Ambuehl said. "Ryan is a full-time baseball player. Ryan believes that he can play college baseball. He works every day to get better so that he can maybe do that someday. I think something is going to happen for him."