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Ellingson wears multiple hats for Circus amateur squad

Ryan Ellingson, of Circus Sports Bar, left, steps on second base to make the force out on Jacob Tisher, of the Castlewood Ravens, right, during a game earlier this season at Fossum Field. Photo by John Davis taken 7/25/2021

Baseball is alive and well in South Dakota and not many folks are happier about that than Ryan Ellingson.

Ellingson serves as a player/coach/manager for the Aberdeen Circus amateur baseball team, a position he never really inquired about, but one that landed in his lap all the same.

“Tyler Newman called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re starting the (Circus) team back up. Do you want to play?’” Ellingson said.

It didn’t take much thought. But the offer came with a catch.

“Tyler said right away, ‘You get to be the coach. I just want to play ball,’” Ellingson said.

No problem, really. Ellingson was already entrenched in coaching, serving, at the time, as the baseball coach at Presentation College. But college ball is structured. Coaches occasionally need to find a way to motivate players. There’s more teaching involved. Amateur ball was pure fun.

“Half the guys that play with us now have played college sports at some level,” Ellingson said. “Everybody knows what they need to do to get ready to play.”

And so, as Ellingson watches his 20s tick by in the rear view mirror and his 30’s in the windshield, baseball remains as much a part of his life as it ever was.

“I’ve always loved baseball,” he said. “My older brother was a pitcher, and so he made me a catcher. That’s just been my life. It’s fun to have other guys to share it with.”

For Ellingson, finding those guys hasn’t been that hard. There’s a core group of about six or seven players that he can count on pretty much every year, he said. Then it’s just a matter of filling in the pieces, and with a pair of college programs in town, fielding a full team hasn’t been a struggle.

“However many college guys you can get to play kind of dictates how deep you can be,” he said.

Since baseball has always been a significant portion of Ellingson’s life, conversation naturally tends to center around the sport. Still, there’s not one single story that crops up on the regular, but rather a group of three or four stories that take turns rotating through dugout chatter or postgame drinks.

Occasionally, however, there is one or two players from opposing teams that stick out.

“Renner, back in the day, had a lefty pitcher,” Ellingson recalled. “He pitched in the minors all the way up to maybe AA. He was fun to watch. Not so fun to hit against, but he was a lot of fun to watch.”

Ryan Ellingson, of Aberdeen Circus Sports Bar, connects with a pitch during a game earlier this season against Groton Locke Electric at Fossum Field. Photo by John Davis taken 6/28/2022

Ellingson has no real plan to hang up the cleats, he said. Besides, even if he did stop playing and just coached, he’d have to bring the cleats anyway.

“Usually when you coach you get talked into playing anyway,” he said.

Ellingson noted, however, that there can’t be an end to something that never had a beginning, and for that, he credited former Circus Bar owner Lonnie Frost, who was instrumental in restarting the team.

“Baseballs aren’t cheap and umpires aren’t cheap,” Ellingson said. “Without his involvement and Tyler Newman starting it, I don’t know, maybe we wouldn’t have a team.”

For now, Ellingson’s attention is turned toward the state tournament, which starts this weekend at Fossum Field. Circus plays Sioux Falls Hops at 7:30 Saturday night. In recent seasons, Circus has tended to have strong regular seasons, followed by a string of less than desirable postseason outcomes. It’s a trend Ellingson would like to break this season.

“We just need to continue to play the way we have been,” he said. “Then it’s just timely hitting. The pitching we’ve seen all year isn’t to the level that we usually see at the state tournament. So it’s just adapting to that early.”

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