It has been a year of firsts for St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Ryan Helsley, and that will continue with the retiring of his number at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla.
St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley will be the first player at Northeastern State University to have his number retired
In a news release, Northeastern State announced that Helsley’s jersey number (8, while he pitched there in 2014 and 2015) will be the first ever baseball number retired by the school. The ceremony will happen on November 5, but Helsley’s number has not been worn by an NSU player since Helsley was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft.
As a footnote to that draft, according to the release, Helsley was the first player from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (the conference to which NSU belongs), the second player from the state of Oklahoma selected, and the fifth player in all of NCAA Division II to be selected when the Cardinals called his name.
The selection of Helsley proved to be a wise one for the St. Louis Cardinals as the right-hander made his MLB debut on April 16, 2019, and just completed his best season as a member of the franchise, logging a career-high 16 saves and earning his first-ever All-Star Game appearance.
With a 9-1 mark and 1.25 ERA in 54 regular-season games, Helsley was a key part of the St. Louis bullpen in 2022. His 2.7 bWAR last season ranked fifth on the team and was the highest for any pitcher.
Helsley’s appearance in Game 1 of the National League Wild Card round against the Philadelphia Phillies also earned him the title of the first NSU baseball player to appear in the All-Star Game and postseason.
"“It is with great pleasure we retire Ryan Helsley’s number; he is the first in NSU Baseball history to have this honor,” said NSU head coach James Cullinane. “Ryan has been a great representative of Northeastern State Baseball, and he’s had a sensational career in Major League Baseball as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. I’ve always appreciated Ryan for what he has meant to NSU, Tahlequah, and the Cherokee Nation. In the offseason, Ryan has been a constant presence in our locker room. His interactions with players at practice, in the weight room, and even traveling with the team to a road series last year have been invaluable to the program.”"
While his season may have ended on a down note (a finger injury caused Helsley to be ineffective in the ninth inning of a 6-3 loss to the Phillies in Game 1, earning the loss as he gave up four runs in an inning of work), Helsley will be celebrated in November for all of his accomplishments not only in Tahlequah, but St. Louis as well.