BT Riopelle stands eagerly waiting for freshman Yoel Tejeda Jr. to wind up on the mound. (Ashley Hearn/WRUF)

BT Riopelle set to make his final mark on Florida Baseball and on the diamond

Life after college baseball for most players usually means more work on the diamond as they prepare for the MLB draft, but for catcher BT Riopelle, his future looks different.

His answer to improving his game for the next level was a bittersweet response for him.

“You know, honestly, I think the next level is kind of out of the picture for me,” Riopelle said.

An Offseason Off the Field

Riopelle could have spent his offseason playing on the field. Instead, he headed south to St. Pete for an internship with a financial firm, an industry he says he wants to get into after this season.

Although he did take time to work in the weight room and improve his aspect of the game, the knowledge he gained from his internship would translate to his leadership role on the field.

I learned a lot and a lot that I could take from that industry into baseball,” Riopelle said. “Leadership skills as well, people that have established themselves as very good leaders in their fields.”

There’s no doubt baseball will always be in his heart. The catcher played for Coastal Carolina to start off his college career in 2019 and found a new home with the Gators program in 2022 after entering the transfer portal. Riopelle was eligible for the MLB draft back in July of 2022 but announced he was going to be returning for his final season with the Gators.

That’s predominantly why I came back. I want to solidify myself as a really good college player and achieve something that I haven’t achieved before [Winning the College World Series].”

Riopelle’s Leadership Mentality on the Field

Ever since Riopelle came to Florida, he’s served as one of the premier leaders on the Gators Baseball team.

Not only his approach at the plate, but the positive mental aspect of the game is what he prides himself having. Getting locked into the game and not straying too far from who he is as a player.

Riopelle gave praise to his leaders who have led him in his past: his family.

Coming from a military family, it’s created a solid foundation for him to replicate within the team.

“… when you consider life or death, and leadership and believing and wanting one another on your team, it’s very, very, very important,” Riopelle said. “So that really helped me transition to a leader on the baseball field for sure.”

Riopelle’s Impact at the Plate

Not only is the catcher a light for his teammates off the field, but he was a key contributor to the team throughout last season.

“I think last year was debatably the most fun year of baseball I’ve ever played in my whole life.” Riopelle said.

Riopelle earned first team all-SEC in 2022 and was named to the 2022 Buster Posey National Collegiate Catcher of the Year Semifinalist.

He led all SEC catchers in home runs (15), RBI (55) and slugging percentage (.551) last season and slashed .304/.371/.551 for the Gators.

Collegiate Baseball has also listed the catcher as a 2023 third team preseason all-american.

Not wanting to pursue a baseball career after college was the reason he came back. However, Riopelle also said the respect and the program at Florida made it easy to play another season.

He related his transition in the portal to Tom Brady, saying that the organization really bought into what he had to offer.

“Not saying I’m anything like Tom Brady, but my transition was very similar in what I had to bring to the table,” Riopelle said. “Everybody kind of bought into what I had to think sometimes and the way I played and really appreciated who I was as a person.”

The catcher looks to make his last staple on the Gators program as they open the season Feb. 17 against Charleston Southern.

It’s his one last chance to play the game on the diamond at Condron Ballpark.

One last chance to make an Omaha run with his teammates.

About Gabriela Vitale

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