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Legacy Christian senior leads with heart

By Star Tribune, 05/29/12, 5:26PM CDT


Ryan Kopca

Career records in seven offensive categories means Ryan Kopca, a senior at Legacy Christian Academy of Andover, won't soon be forgotten.

But he hopes to be remembered beyond statistics.

"I want to be known as a leader," Kopca said. "I try to encourage my teammates to want it and have heart."

A four-year starter for the Lions, Kopca is the career leader in at-bats, hits, runs, RBI, triples, home runs and stolen bases. His contributions defensively are almost as diverse. Primarily a pitcher and outfielder, Kopca has played shortstop and a few innings as an emergency catcher.

"He just loves to play," coach Phil Almeroth said.

Kopca also stood out as a safety and kick returner for Class 5A state football tournament qualifier Anoka. He said he'll "try and make it work next year playing both sports" at Bethel University.

Kopca spoke to Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about being patient with a young team, his legacy beyond the record book and dabbling in track and field.

Q Where did your love for baseball begin?

A It started probably when I was three or four with tee ball. My dad's dad was a Triple-A catcher in the Milwaukee Braves organization. So my dad, Andrew, got brought up playing the game and taught me pretty much everything I know.

Q Coach Almeroth said this team was young and would have to be patient this season. As a senior leader, how have you tried to set an example?

A Sometimes when they make an error, their reaction is to put their heads down and not get after it on the next play. So I'm trying to encourage them and lift them up. It's gotten better the past few games.

Q Coach Almeroth said only about one-third of the runs this team allowed have been earned. How have you tried to stay patient, especially when you're pitching?

A It can be frustrating but you can't do much about it. They are trying their hardest out there.

Q Are you aware of how many times your name will be showing up in the record books?

A Some of those statistics aren't just about skill, they are about the team. Guys get on base for me to hit them in. I've just tried to get on base because you can't score runs if you're not on base. And I give all the glory to God because he is the one that blessed me with my athletic ability.

Q Other than playing football, basketball and baseball, I'm told you ran track as well. How often did you double-dip last spring?

A I went to two track meets. At the first one I won the long jump. And then I got third, I think, in the 200. I competed better than I thought I would.

Q Is there something you take into your different sports to help you perform at a high level?

A Heart is a big thing. That's what Anoka football is based on -- your urge to want it. We played Eden Prairie in our first game at state and we talked about just playing with heart. We scored three touchdowns on them but our defense didn't hold up. We gave it our all, though. We had one defensive lineman playing with a broken foot and I might have fractured my nose. But we gutted it out until the end. I'm trying my best to get some of that into my baseball teammates.

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574




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