Bryce Ayoso has thrown out 29 of 37 runners attempting to steal. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
Click here to read the feature story on BYU catcher Bryce Ayoso.
As former Bulldog star Bryce Ayoso prepares to wrap up his career at BYU, he knows that his days playing baseball at this kind of level are drawing to a close.
And he's just fine with that.
"Baseball's been my job for a long time," he said. "It's paid for school and paid for everything, basically all of my needs, but I'm not afraid of doing something else. It's just hard to think about. It will be a new stage of life."
The 5-foot-10, 200-lb. catcher was a four-year varsity player at Provo. He's progressed throughout his Cougar career, even after an interruption to serve in the Texas Houston East LDS mission.
This season, the senior ranks third on the team in batting at .336. He has a slugging percentage of .586 and has contributed 12 doubles, one triple, five home runs and 21 RBI. He's tied for first in on-base percentage.
He's also second on the team in putouts with 145 and has a fielding percentage of .965.
"He's having another good year," said BYU coach Vance Law. "He's right in the middle of the batting order in the fourth or fifth spot, an RBI position. He's done a very nice job and has had a lot of key hits for us.
"He's been a real steady guy for us, kind of the way he was in high school," the coach continued. "He's played through some injuries and continues to come out and wants to play all the time. He's the kind of guy you really want to have on your team."
Law added that Ayoso is quiet and no-nonsense in every setting.
"If somebody slides into him hard, he doesn't say much, he just takes it and goes on with his business," the coach said. "He exudes quiet confidence. He doesn't have to be a rah-rah kind of guy to be an effective player.
"I think, or I hope, that he knows his value to our program," Law continued. "The hard work he's put in throughout his career has been a great example to our other players.
"He's a real intense individual when it comes to working out and preparing himself in the weight room. There's no horsing around, and he really gets after it. He's not real tall but he's really solid. He demonstrates how people who work hard get rewarded."
Law expressed the hope that Ayoso will find himself on the diamond again some day as a mentor.
"I tell all my guys when they leave here, I hope they take the opportunity to coach young people," he said. "I don't want the knowledge they've gained to sit idly. I want them to use it in some way to help others."
Ayoso said his perspective began to change as soon as he arrived on campus. "I believed in education and I really thought I knew a lot about baseball when I got here, but I know even more now the importance of school and getting an education.
"I've also learned so much more about the sport," he continued. "Besides skills, I've been taught about the strategies and how to manage a game."
Ayoso does plan to use his increased knowledge in both areas. A sociology major, his future may include becoming a youth counselor, which would involve graduate school after he completes his degree in December.
He may also begin coaching as soon as this next year by helping out at Provo, where his brother Kyle will be a senior, the last of the five Ayoso brothers to play for the Bulldogs.
He said Law and the other coaches have had a huge influence on him.
"They taught me to hustle, work hard and play the game the right way," he said. "Coach Law is big on not cutting corners and having integrity on and off the field. I try to live my life that way.
"They've emphasized the importance of living church standards and being an example," he went on. "We represent the church and the leaders of the church. Everywhere we go, people are watching us. I know that will always be true.
"For some, that feels like a lot of pressure, but not for me," he said. "I'm glad I came to BYU, and I'm taking away a lot more than I ever expected."
Although he has few regrets, he added that he'd give any younger player the same advice he's offered his brother. "Play as much as you can and enjoy all you can while you're growing up," he said. "Those opportunities never come again."