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Ringhofer starts his professional baseball career

Catcher Luke Ringhofer shows off his throwing arm with South Dakota State University this spring. Photo by Eric Landwehr1 / 3
Cottage Grove’s Luke Ringhofer shows off the baseball after tagging out a runner at home plate this spring while playing baseball with South Dakota State University. Photo by Eric Landwehr2 / 3
Luke Ringhofer takes an at-bat with the South Dakota State University baseball team this spring. Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia Sports Media3 / 3

East Ridge graduate Luke Ringhofer was standing in a boat on a lake near St. Cloud when his phone started ringing last month.

The news started pouring in when the Baltimore Orioles selected Ringhofer in the 22nd round of the MLB amateur draft June 14.

The Cottage Grove resident was in St. Cloud playing summer ball with the Northwoods League's Rox at the time. Hearing enough to know there was a good chance his name would be called in the draft, Ringhofer took some advice to do anything besides watch the continuous coverage.

So he went fishing with his host family in St. Cloud.

"I finally looked at my phone, and there were about five messages on there like, 'Hey, congratulations,'" Ringhofer recalled.

After hearing from friends and family, he later received a phone call from a scout confirming his selection by the Orioles. It was a good day on the water.

"We were just cruising around the lake a little bit," Ringhofer said. "Cruising around and catching some fish."

Ringhofer left St. Cloud after being drafted and spent a few days at his family home in Cottage Grove. Then he was off to Baltimore, signing his professional contract before taking his first professional assignment with the Aberdeen IronBirds, a Class A Short Season team in the New York-Penn League.

Ringhofer received a brief taste of the major leagues in Baltimore, getting a tour of Camden Yards when he signed his contract. The Baltimore Orioles' home is a retro ballpark which incorporates a warehouse into its design beyond the right field fence.

"We got to see the big league club's locker room and that kind of thing," Ringhofer said. "We got to walk around the field a little bit. It's obviously a nice place, kind of what you're striving to get to."

Before playing three seasons at South Dakota State University, Ringhofer was a standout catcher and hitter for the East Ridge baseball team. Raptors coach Brian Sprout recalls his ability to rarely strike out at the plate and reach base at a high margin.

"Great player, tremendous leader, even better person," Sprout said in a text message. "Just everything you want in your best player."

Ringhofer recognizes his knack as a hitter to work counts and reach base. At SDSU, Ringhofer is third all-time in program history with 114 walks, helping grow his career on-base percentage to .447.

"I'm kind of a patient hitter," Ringhofer said. "I'm not one of those guys who goes up there and looks to ambush the first pitch a lot. Unless there are guys in scoring position, usually I'm patient. If it's not right where I want it early in the count, I usually try to take those pitches."

Ringhofer did not wait long before making an impact in the IronBirds lineup. He doubled in his first at-bat June 26 in a game against the Staten Island Yankees. In his first four games in rookie ball through July 5, Ringhofer was 4-for-11 for a .364 batting average, with one run and one RBI.

"It was kind of nice to get that out of the way," Ringhofer said about doubling in the first at-bat.

Through his first four games at Aberdeen, Ringhofer has played in the lineup three times as a designated hitter. With three catchers on the roster, the 21-year-old knows he will have to produce to get into the lineup on a regular basis.

"You just have got to make the most of your opportunities," Ringhofer said. "You have to perform, that's how you earn a little bit of trust and maybe make your way up a little bit."