Former Barrington baseball star has become part of the Notre Dame family
Former Barrington High School standout Ryan Lidge is pursuing a big dream: he is well on his way toward joining first cousin Brad Lidge as the second member of his family to play Major League Baseball.
Brad pitched in the majors from 2002 through 2012 and is best remembered for striking out the last batter in the 2008 World Series, clinching the championship for the Philadelphia Phillies. Ryan, a 6-foot-2, 211-pound junior, is entering his second season as the starting catcher for Notre Dame. The fighting Irish opened the 2016 season on Feb. 19 at Santa Clara, California, taking one win in the three-game series.
Head Baseball Coach Mik Aoki recently told the Lake County Gazette that Lidge's greatest strength as a catcher is his ability to control the opposition’s running game.
“I think that he would agree that the strength of his games rests in his defense," Aoki stated. “He’s a really good kid. He has matured a lot and developed a lot in our program. He is a big part of our team, a really good college baseball player.”
Lidge is majoring in film, and one day hopes to produce or direct major motion pictures.
“I didn’t really want to sit behind a desk all day and I love movies, so I decided to pursue something in the film or television business," he told the Lake County Gazette.
As a youngster, Lidge had a single overriding goal.
“When I was younger, the only thing on mind was that I wanted to play in the major leagues,” he said. “To play for the Chicago Cubs and win the World Series would be the coolest thing ever.”
Lidge still hopes to follow his cousin’s lead by getting to the big leagues, but he also has specific goals for this season.
“My goal right now is to win as many games as possible and go to Omaha, Nebraska (to reach the college World Series) with this team,” he said.
Lidge is also a very conscientious student and strives to make top grades in the classroom. He also emphasizes his personal connections.
“Strengthening the relationships with my friends and with my family are definitely my top goals," Lidge said. "Baseball and academics are important, but I think that the relationships you develop in life are some of the most important things that you will ever do.”
Like so many students leaving home for the first time, Lidge was apprehensive about coming to the fabled Notre Dame.
“I was a little nervous," he said. "I didn’t really know how college life would go, and I didn’t know how the social life would be. The first thing I learned when I got on campus is that everyone here is Notre Dame, it doesn’t matter what your background is or where you come from. If you come here, you become part of the family. Going to my family of fellow students, teammates and teachers helped me get comfortable here and helped me to start to learn more about myself, and learn how to combine the strengths of academics and athletics.”
Lidge is known as “Fridge” around the Fighting Irish clubhouse because, like many catchers, he is not a particularly fast runner.
“I never had a nickname in high school, but as soon as I got to Notre Dame they started calling me ‘Fridge’ because it looks like I’m running with a refrigerator on my back,” he said.
During his freshman year, his foot speed was put to a test. Following a series win at Clemson, teammates encouraged Lidge to participate in a foot race against another notoriously slow runner, Notre Dame Assistant Coach Jesse Woods. With half the team rooting for Lidge and the half the team rooting for Woods, the race began.
“I ended up winning,” Lidge recalled. "But the funniest part of it is that as I’m crossing the finish line and I am celebrating, everyone was laughing. When I looked back (Woods) had tripped and fallen down about halfway through the race. Everyone loves that story, not only because of the hilarity of the event itself, but also because of the fact that our coach tripped over his own feet while running.”
When he is not studying or playing baseball, Lidge likes to watch films.
“My No. 1 hobby is watching movies," he said. "I love movies; it doesn’t matter what kind of movie it is — you throw it on the TV and I’ll probably end up watching the whole thing.”
Lidge also loves music and enjoys playing the guitar.
“Growing up, my favorite band was Metallica," he said. "I was the little kid who listened to that '70s and '80s rock stuff.”
These days Lidge prefers a wide variety of genres including country, and old and new rock. His favorite performers are Florida Georgia Line, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Hank Williams, Jr., along with classic rockers such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and Journey.
Lidge also describes himself as a big eater.
“Ever since I was a little kid, hands down, if you ask any of my closest friends what my favorite food is they’d tell you chicken fingers,” he said, adding that “almost every time I’m out at a restaurant I check to see if they have it, in case I need a backup plan."
He also has developed a taste for Asian food, namely sushi and orange chicken.
“Honestly, if you put it front of me, I’ll probably eat it," he said. "I have got to get that food in me — as everyone says college students are always hungry.”
Lidge is very grateful to everyone in Barrington who helped him get to where he is today.
“The main thing I realize is how much I owe to the community that I lived in, how much I owe back to them," he said. "Not just for the person it helped to make me, but also for all the things I learned from the experience. I wouldn’t be here without the people and without the support of those people in my community. I can’t thank them enough because of that.”
Along with his aspirations to be a professional baseball player, Lidge looks forward to starting his own family.
“In the long term, I hope that my siblings and I will be able to have something like the family gatherings we used to have while visiting my uncle in Wisconsin," he said. "I hope that the whole family can get together once in a while and hang out and be together, just like we did in the old days.”