Where Are They Now? Former SHS Student Athletes: Chapter 5

Benji Ries talks about his past as a Stevenson baseball player, his future goals

Matthew Mcgowan and Kyla Smith

For four years at Stevenson High School, black and orange were the enemy. Yet this past summer, it were these colors that Benji Ries ’21 donned on his uniform and catcher’s gear. Thankfully, he was no Libertyville Wildcat. Instead, he was a Pistol Shrimp. 

Ries, who played on the varsity baseball team for three years, played his home games in Peru, Illinois with the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp, a summer collegiate team in the Prospect League, consisting of 16 teams across the midwest. Considered among the higher levels of amateur baseball, it has produced 175 Major League players since 1963. Coupled with this more difficult competition was the lack of familiar faces.

“I think we had 12 players from California, so really the roster was from guys made up of everyone around the country,” Ries said. “At the end of day, baseball is still baseball, the collegiate level is better competition and it’s the next level for a reason, but everyone puts on their pants the same. It’s the same game; baseball’s not going away.” 

This spring, Ries will be playing for Le Moyne College, a Division II school located in Syracuse, New York. In meeting his new teammates, Ries created a learning opportunity for himself.  

“One of the coolest things is just meeting all the new guys—we have people from all around the country,” Ries said. “We have a lot of fifth year seniors coming back because of COVID eligibility, and so just picking their brains about what college ball has been like since they’ve been in it for four years has been a focus of mine.” 

During his senior year at Stevenson, Ries adopted a similar mentor-like approach with his teammates who were mostly underclassmen. According to Ries, one of his most essential teaching points revolved around the difference between working hard and working smart. 

“I think everyone believes that the way you get better is by spending a lot of time hitting in the cage, or spending time working on your defense,” Ries said. “And that’s great but the bigger picture is that when you’re doing those things, when you’re working hard, when you’re in the weight room, you need to have a plan. Every single time, I would ask these guys, ‘What are we working on today?’” 

Ries doesn’t plan on discontinuing his experience in baseball after college. He wants to live out the dream of the big leagues and then give back all that he has learned from college and beyond. 

“My ultimate goal is to get drafted, or to be able to play professionally, whatever that opportunity may be,” Ries said. “I’m very confident in myself and luckily Le Moyne has very good success and a great record of getting guys drafted.”