Blue Jays first-round righthander Marcus Stroman coined a term this spring: “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart.”
Ro Coleman knows all about that. For Coleman, the size that matters is not how tall he stands. That must be a relief, since according to his own admission, he tops out at just 65 inches. He’s always been the smallest kid on the team.
What matters the most is just how big his heart is.
It might sound cliché to talk about the smallest player having the biggest heart, but for anyone watching the June 23 game at USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars between Coleman’s RBI team and the Babe Ruth squad that took them on, nothing could have been truer.
In the top of the 10th inning, RBI had taken a one-run advantage over its opponents. As the players took the field to defend their lead, with runners on first and second because of the international tie-breaker rule, Coleman called his teammates in to discuss the situation at hand and give them a boost of confidence.
The second baseman’s team rallied around him. He impressed the rest of his infield, the crowd, his coach and everyone watching with his motivational skills and his inspiring attitude.
“That was big for him to come up and lead like that,” RBI coach Ernie Radcliffe said. “He’s been like that all his life; a leader. He’s the smallest guy on the team but he has the biggest heart. His leadership skills and qualities are impeccable.”
Coleman’s club suffered the loss though, when Babe Ruth came back for two runs to walk off in that inning. Though RBI didn’t win a game throughout the entire tournament, the switch-hitter took that particular upset really hard.
It was almost heart-breaking to watch the Chicago native in the dugout after the game ended. His face was drenched with either sweat or tears, though no one would have had the courage to ask which. The dejected look was evidence of the feeling of personal defeat.
After all, how could Coleman not take it personally? He’d just brought in his team to talk coverage and execution in the hopes of winning their first game as teammates, and they couldn’t get it done.
“I was just making sure everybody was going to be positioned right, making sure we were communicating before the play went on so nothing was out of hand when the play happened,” Coleman said. “I wanted to make sure we had our bunt coverages right.”
The middle infielder tries to set a positive example for his teammates and keep everyone in check no matter where he is or who he is playing with.
“Wherever I go I try to be a leader,” Coleman said. “I never like to follow. I always like to lead.”
He certainly was the leader of the RBI pack, and the Simeon junior was the only player from his team at TOS to make USA’s 40-man roster.
“Ronell Coleman played extremely well this weekend,” Radcliffe said. “He was one of the toughest outs. He made all the defensive plays, he made about six spectacular plays and he just laid it all out on the line.”
Leaving everything out on the field is something that Coleman takes pride in. He describes his style of play as, “grimy and hard,” stating that he constantly plays as hard as he possibly can, which is exactly what he did throughout the tournament.
“I felt like I gave 100 percent every time I went out and played on the field,” he said. “I play as hard as I can every time I play. I think I did a great job contributing to my team. We didn’t win any games but I had a lot of fun out here.”
Coleman was thankful just to get the opportunity to compete for a spot for Olympic trials at TOS, though he is still in contention to be on the roster.
“It was a great experience and there was a lot of good baseball,” he said. “I just came out here to play hard and do my job. Hopefully I’ll make the team and if I don’t I’ll just go back home and keep working, continue to work hard.”
Aside from working hard, his biggest assets are getting on base, scoring runs and his defensive skills, though Coleman says that his best tool is his speed. He’s already caught the attention of a few colleges, having been given an offer from Northern Illinois and had talks with Notre Dame and Auburn. He looks forward to being able to impress his new coaches, wherever he ends up.
“Every time I go to a new tournament or I’m with a new coach they say they love the way I play,” he said. “I go at the game from the beginning…I don’t ever take a play off or take a second off. I just go 100 percent every time.”
That number stands out more than the listed—or actual—number denoting Coleman’s size on any roster.
“A lot of people might doubt me because of my size but that’s just motivation for me to keep working hard and getting better,” he said. “A lot of people say they love watching me play because I play very hard. It doesn’t matter that I’m small. I go out there and I play like I’m 6-5.”