By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Fourth-grade was the first time that South Salem’s Ryan Brown and Noah Ferguson played with one another, but they’ve been playing against each other dating back to when both were in the first grade.
And so, it wasn’t surprising that when it came down to them signing their Letter of Intents Wednesday afternoon, that these two long-time friends would be sitting next to each one other as they signed on the dotted line on where they’ll be playing college baseball beyond this upcoming season.
It’s a life-long dream that has came true for the two baseball buddies.
“It makes it really special, we’ve been dreaming about this since we were little kids. Playing college baseball, going on to the next level,” said Ferguson. “It makes it all the better to sign together, I mean we’re staying pretty close too. We’ll stay in touch, cheer each other on and stuff like that.”
Like any little kid, you never would imagine liking your opponent and it was true with Brown who wasn’t a fan of Ferguson when they were opposition. But when they joined forces as teammates, that passion against Ferguson became passion for as friends and as teammates.
“This has been one of my dreams since I’ve been little. We actually played against each other from first through third grade and I’ve always hated Noah,” laughed Brown. “Then we became teammates in fourth grade, then from there on out it became Greyson (Hanowell) and Noah…we all had a dream to play at the next level. We’ve figured, we never thought that we would not play together and so we’ve got one more season to make it count.”
Hanowell, who is a junior and was in attendance Wednesday along with teammate and Brown’s cousin Brayden Neuharth, always played up with Brown, Ferguson and Neuharth who were a year-older than Hanowell.
Through the sandlots of playing JBO baseball and grinding it out in American Legion Single-A ball with the Santiam Senators before their sophomore season, Ferguson remembers fondly when they won the 2012 JBO State Championship as his fond memory of playing with Brown.
“Definitely has to be winning State (in) fifth grade,” said Ferguson. “Yeah that has to be the most special memory we have. We came all the way through. We didn’t win regular season, we didn’t win District playoffs but then came through at the end just with a great group of guys and to be able to share that with Ryan and Greyson. We get this one last opportunity to do it again this year and see if we can repeat that.”
When High School started, Ferguson went to South, Brown was at Stayton before transferring to South Salem before the start of his sophomore year and Hanowell was at Salem Academy before coming on over. But this past Spring, the three friends had all helped the Saxons to the 6A State Semi-Final game before falling to Clackamas in extra’s in May.
And now, before Brown and Ferguson start their Senior Season, both Brown and Ferguson sat in the North Library signing their Letters of Intent. Ferguson to Pacific Lutheran University and Brown to Oregon State University.
For Brown, he’s been going to camps at OSU since the sixth-grade, giving the Saxon pitcher and shortstop some familiarity with the program and to pick their brains a bit.
“I think the opportunity more for myself is more playing at OSU and not necessarily that they’re National Champions or that they are a great team, but I’ve always been there since they weren’t as good as they are now,” starts Brown. “I’ve been there since I was in the sixth grade going to their camps, knowing of their coaches and everything. So it’s kind of a great opportunity for me, it’s a dream I’ve had.”
Head Coach Max Price mentioned in his speech about Ferguson about Ferguson’s progression from his freshman year until now from a statistical aspect. Ferguson’s work ethic helped the Senior improve over the past few years as he signs at Division-III PLU.
“I just knew I wasn’t doing enough to get to where I wanted to be. I wanted to play college baseball, but I haven’t even made Varsity as a sophomore, so I knew my chances were getting lower and lower,” said Ferguson. “So, I decided that I just needed to put in more work and so every day I put work in the weight room and on the field. Things like that because I knew this is what I wanted to do, and I wanted to continue.
“I didn’t want High School to be my last opportunity to play the game that I love.”
One thing is for certain: This is the last ride in a sense.
Last ride for Brown and Ferguson to relive that State Championship run that they had seven-years ago. Last time that they’ll have to play the game that they love together one last time.
“Honestly, we’ll just have to go full throttle,” said Brown. “We’ll just have to go and have no regrets, we just have to do what we do. We’ve been doing the same thing, the same process since we were little. It’s up our alleyway, so we just have to keep going.”