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The green light: Woodbury leadoff hiter Ryan Winter hopes to cause havoc on basepaths

At 6-foot-3, Woodbury senior Ryan Winter is one of the biggest players on the Royals. But, he's also the fastest and will bat leadoff for the Royals this spring.

At first glance Ryan Winter doesn't look like a base stealing threat but Winter's unique skill set has allowed him to become a pest on the bases.

Winter's 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame seems better fitted on the football field, where he excelled as a defensive lineman for the Royals, but it's his speed that stands out.

Winter, a senior who clocked a 4.6 40-yard dash time last summer, will bat lead-off this season for Woodbury and try to get himself in scoring position by stealing bases.

"I've heard from coaches in both the other sports he plays in that he's got Division-I potential," Royals head coach Kevin McDermott said. "He's certainly got some tools that are uncoachable. Obviously he's got some size and power and he can really run, too. He's one of our fastest guys. He's got good instincts on the bases and can cause havoc on the bases for us. He's got some Division-I tools in baseball for sure."

Winter has drawn attention from opponents with his speed whether it's other coaches or players remarking on how well he moves for his size.

"They definitely throw over more when I'm out there or they'll say something to the catcher," Winter said.

His speed is even more remarkable considering the manner in which he runs. Winter said people have told he has shorter stride than what he should at his size.

Winter, who also played hockey in the winter, hasn't decided on which sport he wants to continue playing following his high school career said he would like to play both football and baseball if the opportunity presented itself. Earlier this spring Winter was picked to the Minnesota High School All-Star Football Game.

With his speed he has the ability to change the complexion of the game by getting on base and it's a role Winter enjoys having.

"It just disrupts everything," Winter said. "They have to adjust the defense. It messes up the defense that they were playing."

Winter keys in on opposing pitchers' tendencies to pick up a better jump or reads how a pitch is going to be received at the plate by the catcher. His instincts have made him a successful base stealer more often than not and given him the green light on stealing in more instances.

"He's got really good instincts," McDermott said. "He's really aggressive and when we give him a green light he wants to go. He finds opportunities to go. He's not afraid and he doesn't get thrown out very often."

Winter plays fearlessly on the base paths and has confidence in his ability to take a base in nearly any circumstance. He's set a goal of stealing home some this season, something he has done in the past.

Winter moved up in the batting order during the summer season in order to do just that and he'll continue that batting in the leadoff spot to begin the season. McDermott said Winter will have to continue to put together consistent at-bats in that spot in order to help the team this season.

"I expect him to be able to hit the ball to the gaps and run like the wind and get some triples," McDermott said.

Winter's speed is also an asset in the outfield where he's played center field and left field in the past. Even when he doesn't get a good read on a fly ball he can make up for it with his speed.

"He's aggressive in the outfield," McDermott said. "He's willing to get after the ball. He's not that guy who kind of runs into the gap and waits for someone else to catch the ball. If the ball's in the air he goes out and gets after it."

McDermott feels Winter may just be starting to tap into his potential in baseball more this season.

"I think sometimes he doesn't realize how good he could be," McDermott said. "I think he's going to have his best years in front of him whatever sport he chooses."