As Starley stands in the on-deck circle, his younger brother Brandon begins to make his way from his seat in the stands toward the fence along the Raiders’ dugout. Once Starley is in the batter’s box and awaiting the first pitch, Brandon shouts ‘Rocket fire!”
“I hear him in the back of my mind,” Starley said of Brandon’s customary cheer. “It doesn’t have too much of an affect on me. It doesn’t bother me or anything. I actually like it. It kind of cheers me up and calms me down I guess.”
Whatever impact the two-worded encouragement has on Starley, it is definitely working on the field.
In the Raiders’ 22 Division I North League contests, Starley belted out 26 hits, drove in 12 runs and bashed four home runs. The senior also accounted for 19 runs and 49 total bases while batting .382 with just nine strikeouts.
“Right now he is our most productive player. He has been all year from Day 1,” Reed coach John Phenix said. “The same goes on defense because sometimes we have to move him around from second and third. He’s just had a great attitude about it all and he’s led us offensively and defensively. In my mind, he’s been our MVP.
“He’s gone above and beyond my expectations. I knew he was a good player and a great kid and student, but what he’s done for us this year, to me, is just totally unbelievable. It proves if you work hard, practice hard and you just believe in things you do and stay positive, it works out. You can take 20 kids like him a year, and whether you win, lose or draw, it would be fun coaching them.”
This season, Starley has helped lead the Blue and Gold to a 14-8 mark in league play and a spot in northern Nevada’s large school regional tournament as the sixth seed. Although he may be a bit reserved and quiet, it is his actions that lead the way for the Raiders.
“He’s shy. He’s not too talkative, but he leads by example,” Phenix said. “He’s just one of those rare kids that practices hard, plays hard and criticizes nobody. He’s positive with everybody, whether they’re playing or not. He’s just one of those kids you dream about coaching.”
One of the reasons Phenix said he enjoys having Starley on the squad is the team-first attitude he brings to the field. Despite moving all through the middle of the lineup and now batting leadoff, as well as moving back and forth from second and third base, Phenix said Starley was always on board for whatever was best for the team.
“He’s one of the most unselfish kids that I’ve ever coached,” Phenix said. “He’s a winner. He might go 0-for-4, but if we win he doesn’t care. He wants to win. He’s just that type of kid.
“We talked about moving him around and all you ever hear back from him is positive things. It doesn’t matter where you put him, he’ll do what he has to do. He even told me if we needed him to pitch, he’d pitch. I told him, ‘OK, you can pitch batting practice.’”
While it may not be Starley’s pitching prowess that takes him to the next level, the senior is hoping to continue his baseball career after graduating from Reed. For now though, his focus is on the Raiders’ playoff date with No. 3 seeded Reno today, where he is hopeful Reed can stay on its hot streak.
“I guess the biggest thing would be to knock off Reno to start and go from there,” Starley said. “I just want to come out with the momentum that we have and knock them off.”
With a little help from Brandon, the Raiders may just be able to do that. Rocket fire!