For a local family, the game of softball includes friendly rivalry
Patrick Ryan is used to encouraging his daughters.
But recently he found himself in the unusual position of coaching against them.
Ryan is the freshman head coach for the Stanwood High School softball team. His daughters — senior Riley Ryan and rookie Reagan Ryan — are both starters for Arlington.
So when the Spartans and the Eagles faced off in their annual championship game on Monday, it was quite an experience for the Ryan family.
“It was very strange,” Patrick said. “It was the first time, I think, that I watched one of my kids in the batting box without cheering them on between pitches.
“Wanting to win the game, but also wanting to see my two kids succeed, was definitely one of the most conflicting experiences I’ve ever had.”
In the weeks leading up to the game, Patrick and his daughters exchanged friendly conversations around the house.
The girls found themselves with bragging rights, helping Arlington to a 10-0 victory over their father’s team.
“There were quite a few jaws going on — talking to each other and telling them how I was going to introduce them and how I could get them out,” Patrick said.
“I really wanted to come home and be able to talk smack and let them know dad is still in charge here,” he added. “But it certainly didn’t happen that day.”
Riley played left field for the Eagles and Reagan played first base. Riley had a successful day at the plate, going 2-for-3 against his father’s team.
“We stuck to the plan and we got Reagan, but Riley really wouldn’t let us affect him,” Patrick said. “…Riley did a good job with the pitches we gave him.”
Patrick has helped coach a number of Riley teams over the years, so the eldest daughter is used to having her dad around the diamond. But Riley said it was strange to see her father on the opposite side.
“It was fun to be able to be on the same pitch as him,” Riley said. “But this time I wasn’t with him – I was going against him – so it was really weird for me. I was a lot more nervous than usual, for some weird reason. I just wanted to beat him.
Patrick, a Stanwood High School alum, played baseball at Skagit Valley College in the early 2000s. He started coaching softball about six years ago when Riley started the sport at age 12. years.
Since then, Patrick has coached several of Riley’s travel teams. He has also spent the past three seasons as a volunteer assistant coach in the Arlington High School program.
So, in addition to taking on his daughters, Patrick was taking on a number of other players and coaches he had shared the dugout with in recent years.
“It was interesting to be on the other side – to go against all of them,” Patrick said.
Patrick and his wife, Cathy, raised their children in Arlington. But about a year ago the family moved to Stanwood.
Last February, the Stanwood head coaching position opened up. Patrick said his family played a major role in encouraging him to continue his work.
“Over the years, through coaching (Riley), I developed a love for coaching and playing myself,” Patrick said.
“We had a chat around the house and (they) were really supportive,” he added. “…They totally convinced me that I had to (carry on). And so I applied for the job, and here we are today.
Despite their family’s move to Stanwood, the girls decided to stay at Arlington High School. This gave them the opportunity to play a high school ball season together.
Reagan started playing softball around the same time as his older sister. Over the years, she occasionally played on Riley’s teams.
And this spring, the two sisters helped the Eagles to an 8-2 start and a 5-1 mark in the Wesco 3A/2A game.
“It’s so great to have Reagan on the team,” Riley said. “I love playing with my sister, and it’s so cool that she can experience college softball with me as a freshman. It was really fun. I love playing with her.