The same competitive juices that have aided Ryan Latta in his athletic endeavors also have paid off in the classroom.
“I’m pretty hard on myself,” the Iola High School senior said. “I don’t like to do poorly.”
That means carrying a batting average of about .500 this year for the Mustang baseball squad while simultaneously learning a new position at third base.
“I’d always played first or second base before,” he said, as well as having pitched for the IHS squad. “I’m getting better at third. I’m starting to get into a rhythm defensively.”
More importantly, Latta, who professes to have no special acumen for class work, still has managed to maintain straight A’s through his four years of high school.
He and 100 other members of Iola’s class of 2010 will receive their high school diplomas during commencement ceremonies at 2 p.m. Sunday at the IHS gymnasium.
Latta learned at a young age that doing well in the classroom would require plenty of work.
“I struggled a lot, up through the third grade,” Latta recalled. “I’d never gotten good grades before that.”
His academic world was turned upside down — in a good way — when he entered Linda Brunetti’s fourth-grade class at Lincoln Elementary School.
Brunetti’s lessons stuck, he said, as she helped generate an enthusiasm for learning that Latta still hasn’t fully quenched.
He made the honor roll for the first time that year, earning A’s and B’s.
That success hasn’t changed an iota in the eight years since.
“To this day, Mrs. Brunetti still sends me different articles,” Latta said. “I appreciate what she’s done.”
The success made Latta hungry for more as he continued earning classroom honors into Iola Middle School and finally IHS.
There was one noteworthy close calls. His chemistry grade hovered at the 90-percent threshold his junior year.
Latta pored in extra hours of studying outside the classroom to ensure the grade stayed above 90. He finished with a 91.
He credits his parents, Randy and Patty Latta, for instilling in him the confidence, without pressure, to succeed in a number of venues.
“It was important to my parents that I do well, but it was especially important for me,” Latta said. “I really like to push myself.”
LATTA’S ultimate dream is to earn a front office position for a professional baseball team.
But first comes college.
Latta has enrolled at Allen County Community College — his mother works in ACCC’s accounts payable office — and plans to study there for two years before transferring to the University of Kansas.
Latta is pursuing a degree in sports management.
“I’ve always loved sports,” he said. “If I can, I want to have a career doing something with sports.”
If his schedule permits, Latta will attempt to walk on for the ACCC baseball squad.
But before he turns his sights to college, Latta’s immediate focus — aside from Sunday’s commencement — is on ensuring the Mustangs end their 2010 season on a high note. Iola (11-7) opens the Class 4A regional playoffs Monday at home against Prairie View.
Latta remains confident he can help the team succeed, offensively and defensively.
His switch to third base meant fielding hundreds of extra ground balls in practice.
“The coaches told me they needed me at third, so that’s where I went,” he said. “And I’ve done a lot of offseason work at the batting cages. I think it’s paid off. I’m seeing the ball a lot better at the plate.”