Sports are a numbers game for Ryan Kunish. The Riverside-Brookfield High School senior has served as the Bulldogs’ statistician for the boys baseball, basketball and football programs his entire preps career.
Ironically, the value of a hardcore statistician like Kunish transcends measure, at least within the appreciative RBHS athletic department. There’s no convenient sabremetric, like baseball’s en vogue WAR (Wins Above Replacement) stat to quantify the soft-spoken senior’s impact, because he’s already become irreplaceable in the estimation of several Bulldogs coaches and players.
Simply put, Kunish is the guy behind the guy behind the guy.
Make no mistake, however, his behind the scenes contributions ranging from exhaustive stat-keeping, meticulous film study and even perceptive insights about what he sees on the field of play have greatly benefitted the Bulldogs.
“Ryan is pretty much a jack of all trades for us,” RBHS varsity baseball head coach Dallas Till said. “He’s basically become an assistant coach, and he’s a young guy we count on heavily because he takes his role within the RB baseball program very seriously.
“Ryan has saved me countless hours with his ability to keep stats in an organized and efficient manner. In this age of technology where everything is done on an iPAD, he’s very savvy in pairing stats with technology, which allows myself and [RBHS assistant coach] Mark Ruge more time to focus on coaching.”
When many RBHS athletes were occupied with either AAU basketball teams, travel baseball squads, football camps or family vacations last summer, Kunish attended every single Bulldogs baseball game during the relatively noncommittal days of the offseason.
“We had a lot of doubleheaders and Ryan was there for every single game start to finish,” Ruge said. “He interacts with the players very well, and he knows the game of baseball. I trust Ryan with anything. I’m upset that he’s a senior; I wish we had him another three years.”
During the football season, Kunish kept stats for head coach Brendan Curtin. Essentially acting as the Roger Ebert of Shuey Stadium, Kunish spent countless hours breaking down film to ensure accurate numbers for every position on the field, even keeping unglamorous but relevant stats like pancake blocks and sacks allowed by offensive linemen.
The Riverside resident now turns his detailed attention to RBHS basketball.
“When I attended Hauser, [RBHS varsity boys basketball head] coach [Tom] McCloskey, who is a teacher at Hauser, asked me if I would keep stats from him when I came to RB,” Kunish said. “I managed the Hauser basketball team in eighth grade. At RB, I attend all the basketball practices and keep stats on [RBHS assistant] coach [Mike] Reingruber’s iPhone. Basketball is so exciting and we have a great program at RB.”
Aside from his early statistical work at Hauser, Kunish kept stats for the St. Mary football team in Riverside.
While each sport presents its own rewards and challenges, Kunish also cherishes the relationships he’s developed with the coaches and players during his four years crunching the Bulldogs’ numbers.
“I didn’t know a lot of the coaches initially, but I got to know them. They have all been great,” Kunish said. “I’ve also enjoyed getting to know the players, especially great guys like [former RBHS athletes] Charlie Morrissey and Andy Suzuki. I think of all the players, the best relationship I’ve had is with [RBHS baseball player] Will [Kincanon]. He’s just such a genuinely nice guy, and it’s really exciting to keep stats on a player of his caliber.”
Kincanon, the Bulldogs’ ace pitcher who was chosen as a Class 3A All-State player last spring, reciprocates praise for his close friend.
“Ryan cares about RB sports as much as the players do so it’s great having him with us,” Kincanon said. “I’ll give him rides after practice and we just talk baseball and basketball. Most schools probably don’t have a kid who puts as much time into the program as Ryan does, so it’s definitely a benefit.”
After high school graduation, Kunish hopes to attend either Purdue or Carnegie Mellon University to study engineering and hopefully land another statistician’s gig with whichever school he chooses.
In the meantime, Kunish can’t wait to embark on his senior campaign with RBHS basketball and baseball.
“I’m not playing in the games, but keeping stats on the varsity level all four years is very special to me,” Kunish said. “Most athletes aren’t on the varsity teams all four years, so I don’t take it for granted.
“I’ve been a huge football fan since I was 5, I love college basketball, and when the [Pittsburgh] Pirates started winning, I really got into baseball. Keeping stats is fun, because I love sports and I love doing the numbers.”