Athlete of the Year: Frederick Ragsdale III

For our last issue, we asked the LT student body to vote for the Athlete of the Year. We created a poll consisting of 14 of LT’s Division I athletes. This poll did not include our five Athlete’s of the Issue. A total of 2,159 votes were tabulated, Frederick Ragsdale III ’23 came out as 2023’s official Athlete of the Year with 512 votes.


Sydney Wolf, Sports Editor

Since Frederick Ragsdale III ‘23 began playing baseball at the age of 3 years old, his uniform was always too big on him. However, being the smallest on the team played a big role in establishing the drive for success and determination that he would carry with him for the rest of his career. 

“I remember his uniform, hat, and bat were all too big,” Ragsdale’s mother, Nickole Ragsdale said. “But that didn’t matter, because he swung the bat as hard as he could, and ran the bases as fast as he could.”

Skipping tee ball and going straight to “Coach Pitch” also had a big impact on Ragsdale, as it set him and his skills about four years ahead of the rest of the kids his age. 

His childhood team holds a very special place in his heart, Ragsdale said, because it’s where he shares his earliest memories with the sport. He played with the Jackie Robinson West Elite team, which eventually turned into the West Englewood Tigers when he turned 10. 

“We began traveling to smaller tournaments in places like Indiana and Michigan, just getting our name out there, playing better competition, practicing more, and simply falling in love with the sport as little kids,” Ragsdale said.

Ragsdale also got a head start on the college recruitment process as scouts began to watch him and his team at age 12. The Tigers grew to be first in the state and eventually 13th in the country, drawing a lot of attention towards them. However, not all of the attention was good. The team, consisting of almost all black athletes, faced many racist umpires, coaches, and opponents during their time together. 

Ragsdale recalls a time with his team celebrating a tournament game win, when their opponents came over in jealousy to say things to them like, “You’re only good because you’re black,” he said. One of his teammates immediately swung a punch, resulting in the team getting kicked out of the tournament, as well as a heavy running punishment from their coach at practice.

“Our coach explained that we have to remain calm, cool, and collected so that we can make the best decisions for ourselves and the people around us,” Ragsdale said. “He taught us a valuable lesson that day that I have since applied to my life in many ways.”

Walking into high school, Ragsdale joined his current travel team the White Sox ACE. With this team, he dove further into the recruitment process, talking one-on-one with coaches and representing the team at college showcases. Scouts began to flood their tournaments and Ragsdale gained more exposure and recognition. While many college coaches began to contact him, one in particular stood out. 

“Kent State University took a chance on me,” Ragsdale said. “They saw my potential early, even being a smaller kid, and they knew they wanted me. However, I didn’t truly fall in love with the school until my first official visit.”

Ragsdale verbally committed to the Division I school as center fielder in the winter of his junior year, and officially signed his letter of intent during the fall of his senior year.

“He is simply one of the best when it comes to work ethic,” varsity head coach Kevin Diete said. “I know he will be successful in college, because he is constantly working at his skills and his craft to be the best player that we can have and the best player that he can be.”

Diete has been coaching him on LT’s team for two and a half years, as Ragsdale was invited up to varsity halfway through his sophomore year. According to Diete, he has been a leader and role model ever since. He holds himself to a high standard, which is something his teammates see and thrive off of, Diete said. 

Illinois Wesleyan football commit Cooper King ‘23 is a teammate that has been by Ragsdale’s side playing baseball with him all four years of high school.

“Rags always knows how to ignite a flame in the dugout with how he plays on the field,” King said. “He is a really great friend off the field to everyone. He is caring and knows how to lead a team.”

Ragsdale doesn’t only set an example for his teammates on his travel and high school team, but for his family, too. Specifically his younger brother, eighth-grader Blake Ragsdale has been following in Ragsdale’s footsteps since he was born. 

“Blake is my best friend,” Ragsdale said. “He works harder to be better than me, and I work harder to make sure that doesn’t happen. We push each other constantly, and I know he’s going to do great things with baseball, thanks to me.”

The love and support doesn’t stop with Blake, though. The backbone behind Ragsdale’s career lies within his relationships, he said. Nickole and his father, Frederick Ragsdale Jr., have always been there to catch Ragsdale when he fell and pick him back up, Ragsdale said. 

“One of my favorite memories was one of the worst moments of his baseball career,” Ragsdale Jr. said. “He couldn’t make the catch at a tournament in Omaha to lose the game, and came crying off the field after his team was eliminated, falling into [my] arms.”

That play was redeemed years later, when Ragsdale was selected to be a part of the National High School Championship Series, aired on ESPN. Representing Illinois, he won the Defensive Specialist Award for making a diving catch in the first game of the tournament against Mississippi. 

On top of the National award, Ragsdale holds even more achievements between the fences of LT baseball. Along with being one of this year’s varsity captains, he holds the school record for most runs scored in a season, as well as most stolen bases in a season. Ragsdale’s future is bright as he has already had an opportunity to attend his first MLB Pro Camp where about 30 MLB scouts watched him play. 

“I’m not done yet,” Ragsdale said. “I know I’m not the best I can be and I’m going to keep working until I am. My journey isn’t over and I can’t wait to continue this sport for as long as possible.”