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From “On The Bump” To “Bump, Set, Spike”

Nov 19, 2013, 10:02 AM EDT

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In baseball lingo, the phrase “on the bump” is commonly used in reference to the pitcher’s mound. For opposing batters facing Ryan Doherty, the bump may as well have been a mountain. Standing at 7-foot-1, the righty closer dominated hitters, on his way to multiple All-America honors in 2004. After his junior season, he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and made his way back to northern Indiana with the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Single-A Midwest League.

But playing in the big leagues was not in the cards for Doherty, and after returning to Notre Dame to finish his philosophy degree, he made the bold decision to move across the country in pursuit of a different professional sports career.

It is safe to say it paid off, and these days, the Toms River, N.J. native has his sights set on earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Scott Stump for Yahoo Sports’ The Post Game writes:

It was the spring of 2009 when Ryan Doherty and good friend Steve Johnson decided to head a half hour south to the casinos of Atlantic City, N.J., for a guys’ night out.

In the midst of the drive, Doherty dropped a bombshell.

“We’re driving down the Parkway, and Ryan says, ‘Hopefully I can win a couple of bucks. I’m moving out to California tomorrow,'” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘What?! Are you crazy?!”’

At 25 years old, Doherty had spontaneously decided he was going to pack everything he owned into his car and drive to Huntington Beach, Calif., to pursue a professional beach volleyball career. He had $5,000 left to his name, no job lined up in California, nowhere to stay, and a failed professional baseball career in his rearview mirror.

After being released by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, the 7-foot-1 former Notre Dame closer had dabbled in beach volleyball while living in South Carolina with Johnson. What started as a way to blow off steam had become an obsession that prompted him to abruptly move to Huntington, a beach volleyball mecca.

“I was terrified,” said Nancy O’Brien, Doherty’s mother. “But that’s the kind of guy Ryan is. When he has a passion for something, he throws himself in all the way. I thought that he’ll get this out of his system, and then he’ll use his degree to get a job.”

“My story could’ve ended much differently with me being broke and heading back to New Jersey, but if that happened, at least I would’ve known I went for it,” Doherty said. “I believe if you pursue your passion as if it’s your last breath of air, you won’t look back and regret it.”

To read the rest of the article on Doherty’s beach volleyball journey, click here. It’s a long read, but certainly worth your time.

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