September 28 - Ryley Johnson and his Colgan teammates didn’t see this one coming.
Prior to an offseason practice earlier this month, Johnson and about 20 of his teammates gathered around Sharks coach Mike Colangelo and a couple of his assistants to run through the plan for their workout. It was then that Colangelo mentioned a talented player had moved to the area and could be enrolling at the Manassas school.
“Coach told us, we’ve got a kid coming in, he was an all-state outfielder in Texas and runs like a 6.5,” Johnson said. “And I was thinking, ‘Ok, I’m gonna have to bump up my game a little bit’.”
Johnson, a member of the 2019 NOVA Nine Team after hitting .463 with a .610 on-base percentage, 32 runs and 40 stolen bases was curious who he might be sharing the outfield with in the spring. The ‘transfer player’ and his father then walked up to the field, said hello, and he began lacing up his cleats to join the other players.
At that point, Colangelo’s prank on his players was exposed.
“Once I saw him wearing [Kansas City Royals] stuff and carrying a KC bag, I said ‘Wait a minute’,” Johnson said. “I went up to his dad and said, ‘There’s no way he’s in high school’, and his dad started to laugh.”
The mystery ‘transfer’ was Khalil Lee, a 2016 NOVA Nine selection as a senior at Flint Hill and one of the top prospects in the Royals’ farm system. Lee proceeded to hit eight of the 20 pitches out of the park in his first batting practice round, and also joined the team for defensive and other drills over his two days working out with Colgan’s players.
“I’ve known Khalil since he was nine-years-old, and I see a lot of similarities between him and Ryley,” Colangelo said. “Both are outfielders with a lot of speed, strong hitters and have strong arms.
“His strong will to win is something I’ve always appreciated, and as I’m trying to get Colgan to the next level, I want to expose my players to guys with that.”
Johnson, an East Carolina recruit, took notice of a player he’s compared to. Both are athletic left-handed swinging and throwing outfielders and a nightmare for opposing pitchers and catchers when on the base paths. Johnson led the area in steals and Lee ranked second among all minor leaguers this year by swiping 53 bags.
“I paid attention to the small details with what he was doing,” Johnson said. “During BP and in the outfield drills, I was watching to see what else I can do to get better.”
Photo of Khalil Lee courtesy of Kansas City Star