Shortstop With Name To Match

Whooping and hollering, BYU's Ranger Wiens does an Indian dance as a pre-game baseball ritual in the shower, where singing sounds best.

"Its guaranteed, you can hear him a couple rooms away," says former BYU pitcher Tyler Dabo, who roomed with Wiens on road trips. "He turns the water on cold for the last part of the shower."

"I'm horrible, but I like to sing songs or make donkey noises when I'm playing shortstop," says Wiens, a 6-3, 210-pound senior from Merced, Calif. The dancing and singing help Wiens perform well for the Cougar baseball team.

His name, Ranger, picked by his dad from a military magazine, made him destined to be a baseball player. It also helped that his mom was a junior college softball coach and his dad was a AAA pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. Before the find in the magazine, Ranger's first name was supposed to be Jarett, which is his middle name. He has at least 10 nicknames which he won't reveal, but says his dad went by the nickname of "Weiner," in pro ball.

Wiens, who bats right and throws right, hit to the tune of a junior record .415 last season in league games. Overall, he stole 21 of 28 bases and was ranked nationally with 25 doubles. Imagine what he could have done with a healthy shoulder.

Last July, Wiens had successful surgery in Los Angeles at the renowned Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. Another shortstop, from the University of Hawai`i, had surgery there at the same time, but Wiens never met him.

Although Wiens has had a three-month layoff from hitting or throwing with his right arm because of the surgery, he is somewhat ambidextrous.

"I'm left-handed," said Wiens, a political science major. "I play tennis, play pingpong, write, eat and brush my teeth--all with my left hand. I'm a better hitter left-handed in whiffle ball."

In addition to recovering from surgery, he was recovering from the shock of not being drafted.

"I wasted a lot of time last June watching the whole pro draft," said Wiens. "It gave me hope when Kainoa [Obrey] got drafted [13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals]. I could have signed as a free agent, but I thought it would be best to play another year and get better.

"I want to help BYU win another championship and make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. Then if things don't work out for the draft, I can still sign as a free agent."

Two seasons ago he was selected to the All-Mountain West Conference Tournament Team after he wowed local fans. In the 2002 MWC Championship game, he made plays like a diving stab in the hole, a play behind second base, and also backhanded the ball in the grass while deep in the hole to his right.

"I haven't seen shortstop played like Ranger played," BYU Coach Vance Law said of his play in the doubleheader sweep over SDSU to claim the title. "He played exceptionally well. Normally I don't mention things like this to my players, but Ranger made an absolutely major-league play in the hole."

Wiens improved his batting average from .318 in 2002 to .405 last season, but was not selected in the pro draft.

Not being drafted and recuperating from shoulder surgery weren't the first recoveries for Wiens. Five months before he completed a Church mission in Hawai`i, his mother died.

Mission President H. Ross Workman, a Salt Lake City lawyer now serving in the Second Quorum of the Seventy, told him the devastating news that Wiens' Mom, Sheryl, had been killed in a car accident.

"I just hugged him [President Workman] in disbelief when he told me my Mom had died," said Wiens, an Eagle Scout.

Without his Mom, a support system was vital for Wiens when he returned from his mission. The University of Nevada baseball coach recognized this need and released Wiens so he could transfer to BYU.

Wiens had played for the University of Nevada out of high school for two reasons.

"First, they gave me the best offer," said Wiens. "Second, it was a good program where I could start as a freshman."

Ironically, there was also another player named Wiens on the team, but he wasn't a relative. Ricky Wiens went by the abbreviation Ri. Wiens in the box score and on the lineup card, and Ranger went by Ra. Wiens.

At the University of Nevada in Reno, Ranger mainly played third base, but did play one game at shortstop and one game in left field.

"I told them [Nevada] before I arrived that I had decided to go on a mission after my freshman year," said Wiens. "My Dad was against me going on a mission."

Wiens' dad taught Ranger to be a shortstop, but groomed his brother, Logan, to follow in his footsteps and be a pitcher. Wiens' brother, a high school senior, has verbally committed to pitch for Fresno State.

Wiens' mother, who was the softball coach at Merced College, was 17 years younger than his father. She threw batting practice to Wiens as a youth. She had also been a high school teacher to Dale Murphy, a future Golden Glove Major Leaguer.

"I've met Murphy a number of times when I was younger," said Wiens, who watched him play when teams would come to Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Wiens grew up on a diet of watching 10 Giants games a year. He also attended a couple of Los Angeles Dodger games and some with the Oakland A's, but his favorite team is the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves make the claim to be America's team because their games are often televised on Ted Turner's national cable network.

"I've been watching complete Braves games since I was three-years-old," said Wiens, who regularly dons their major league cap when he isn't sporting BYU atop his bill.

"He watches baseball whenever I let him; he's obsessed and dedicated," said Wiens' wife, Katie. "If that doesn't get him to the majors, I don't know what will. He wants to prove he can do it."

"I've learned things worthwhile are never easy, so I want to do whatever I can to help my chances," said Wiens. "I dream of playing in the big leagues.

"I am not the prototypical shortstop because I am tall, 6-3. I am trying to make a few adjustments in my swing, and my coaches always have solutions to my questions."

Wiens is also a baseball junkie when it comes to prize photos, posing with Major Leaguers Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace.

Out of high school, Wiens didn't have any contact with the Cougars, although his mother earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at BYU.

Wiens did make a basketball recruiting trip to Cal State Fullerton, and did get some interest from a few Division I and II schools in California as a basketball shooting guard.

Wiens came to BYU through a couple recommendations. Former BYU all-conference catcher Tom Fife (1962-67) had also served a mission and was a friend of the Wiens family. And former BYU pitcher Brandon Boothe (1998-01) was an acquaintance from Wiens hometown of Merced.

Once at BYU, Wiens helped the Cougars to an MWC Championship in 2002, and also met his wife.

He married Katie Corbett this past August in a ceremony performed by her grandfather in Los Angeles.

Last season she came to all BYU's home baseball games and traveled to games at UNLV, San Diego State and at the MWC Tournament in Albuquerque. This season with BYU playing so many games in the Golden State, there are almost a dozen games within a couple hours of their childhood California homes .

Last year he was selected second team All-MWC and was a team tri-captain as he led the Cougars with 89 hits and the highest on-base percentage.

"I could see him singing when he was at shortstop last year, but I've only heard about his Indian dancing," said Katie.

Some of Wiens' roommates last season let Katie listen to Ranger on the phone as he sang while doing his pre-game Indian dance in the shower.

Now as his wife, Katie gets to observe the Indian dancing first-hand.