Loutos does what he once thought was impossible -- makes MLB debut!

June 2nd, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Loutos kept his emotions in check for the 10 games that he sat in the bullpen night after night without ever getting into a game. The Cardinals rookie reliever then battled the butterflies upon finally getting that call he’s always dreamed about, and he used the euphoria of pitching before 44,668 fans at Citizens Bank Park to successfully power through his MLB debut.

However, it was after the Cardinals’ 6-1 loss to the Phillies, when the 25-year-old Loutos made eye contact and was joyously greeted by his father and two brothers that he finally relented to his emotion and let them gush out almost every pore. Somehow, someway, the reality of pitching in the big leagues -- something that even Loutos often thought was far-fetched considering he hailed from Division III Washington University -- exceeded his wildest dreams.

Washington University’s campus is just a few miles down the road from Busch Stadium in St. Louis, but it might as well have been a million miles away considering the staggering odds Loutos faced in ever getting this far. Muddy Ruel (1915-34), Norm Siebern (1956-68) and Dal Maxvill (1962-75) were the only previous Washington University graduates to play in MLB, while just three former Bears have been drafted.

So, when Loutos’ big league moment finally materialized on Saturday -- in the bottom of the eighth of a five-run game -- the 6-foot-5, 240-pound right-hander made sure to savor every second he could in what proved to be a scoreless inning of work.

Then, came the waterworks.

“I broke down once I saw my family coming down the steps to go on the field and take pictures with me,” said Loutos, whose eyes were still red and bleary from the tears they produced earlier. “It was a pretty sweet moment.”

A night that was mostly forgettable for the Cardinals because of staff ace Sonny Gray’s first-inning troubles and the lack of punch from an offense missing Lars Nootbaar (oblique strain) and Brendan Donovan (neck stiffness) will live in the memory banks of the Loutos family for years to come.

Loutos always thought his path to the big leagues would be through his computer science degree from the prestigious academic university in St. Louis. A few years earlier, he worked for the Cardinals by helping write code for the app designed to assist pitchers in their development throughout the organization. He had a job offer with a firm in Chicago as a software engineer, but he still had an urge to give pitching another try. On Saturday, some 12 days after his callup to the big leagues, Loutos’ long and winding journey to get here reached a stirring culmination.

“I gave everyone fist bumps, and then after I sat down, I thought about all of the little parts of my career, and never in a million years did I think I would pitch in a big league game,” he said. “I worked for it to be as good as I could possibly be, but I never knew this was possible. With all those years and little milestones -- thinking back to senior year of high school and senior year of college and just hoping I could get a chance to play a little bit longer. I didn’t really ever think I had much of a chance of that, to be honest. But here I am, pitching against the Phillies -- one of the best teams in all of baseball -- and it all kind of hit me at once just how cool it was.”

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol found it cool how Loutos overcame the nerves of his MLB debut and worked his way out of trouble. Showing off the improved velocity that allowed him to go from Division III star to legitimate MLB prospect, Loutos hit 94.8 mph on his sinker, per Baseball Savant, and he retired Bryson Stott (flyout) and Nick Castellanos (groundout) to settle his nerves. He walked Brandon Marsh, and Edmundo Sosa singled to extend the inning, but Loutos worked out of the jam by getting Johan Rojas to ground out to shortstop.

“He did a nice job of getting through the inning,” Marmol said. “He handled it well.”

Loutos is hopeful that with him making it to the big leagues, he can be an inspiration to other low-level college players dreaming of playing big league baseball.

“When I was at a Division III school and saw anybody in MLB, that gave me the hope that, ‘Hey, it’s not out of the realm if I’m good enough,’” he said. “It doesn’t matter what school you go to if you’re good enough and you keep performing. If you take advantage of opportunities and push yourself, your career is going to work out however it’s supposed to.”