Former LCC athletic director Mickey
Riley dies at 51
At 5-foot-5 1/2, Mickey Riley was small in stature, but had the heart of a lion and was courageous in his fight with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis until the day he died.
The 51-year-old Riley, a former Lower Columbia College athletic director who was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in 2005, succumbed to the disease on Oct. 7 in Corvallis, Ore.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, according to the ALS Association. Most sufferers live three to five years after diagnosis.
Riley, the son of former LCC and Oregon State University baseball coach Jack Riley and his wife, Jean, was born Aug. 8, 1960, in McMinnville, Ore., and grew up in Corvallis.
Riley was a baseball and basketball star through his junior year at Crescent Valley High in Corvallis before transferring to Corvallis High as a senior. His high school teammate at Crescent Valley and later at OSU was Jim Wilson, who went on to a 13-year major league career.
"In all that time, Mick was the best teammate I ever had," Wilson said in a story in the Portland Tribune. "He was a coach's son, knew the game and was a great competitor. But more than anything, he made you feel good about yourself. He oozed confidence and inspired that in the guys around him."
As a basketball player, Riley could shoot with either hand. He averaged 18 points per game as a junior at Crescent Valley, and led Corvallis High in scoring as a senior. While at Corvallis High, Riley became friends with Harold Reynolds, who also went on to a successful major league career.
In an interview with ESPN: The Magazine, Reynolds told how Riley helped him become more effective as a switch hitter.
"I'd come home from pro ball, and my best friend, Mickey Riley, would throw to me. He could throw with either hand and could shoot a basketball with either hand," Reynolds said.
Riley went on to play for his father at OSU, where he was a four-year starter at second base. He batted second in the lineup and finished his college career with 169 hits, while ranking second all-time in career walks.
"Mick was hands-down the best second baseman in the league," Wilson said. "Bat control, switch-hitting, throwing, catching - he wasn't overly physically gifted, but very skilled. And he had every intangible. He found a way to be an all-league player in Division-I baseball."
Riley was named all-Pac-10 second baseman as a junior in 1982 when he hit .374. He helped lead the Beavers to the 1982 and ‘83 North Division crowns and a berth in the ‘83 NCAA Regionals.
"Mick had probably the best strike zone of anyone I ever coached," said Jack Riley, who led the Beavers for 24 years. "But the unique thing about him was his baseball intelligence. His teammates always said it was so great playing with him because he was just like another coach on the field.
"He just had that air of confidence all coaches look for. He never ceased to amaze me, his focus on situations. He had a coaching mind at a young age."
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in political science, Riley played the 1983 season for the Walla Walla Bears of the short-season Class A Northwest League. During his only season with the Bears, Riley hit .269.
After his stint with the Bears, Riley embarked on a sports career in Australia, where he coached and played professional baseball and basketball.
"I coached and did administrative work in the Australian Baseball League, and helped out with the national and state teams," Riley said in a Daily News story in 1997. "In the offseason, some of the guys would go to the U.S. to play. Graehme Lloyd, an Australian who plays for the New York Yankees, was a teammate of mine."
According to the Aussie Baseball Forum Web site, "Mickey was one of the most influential personalities in West Australian baseball during the late 1980's and early 1990's, introducing a competitive culture and winning attitude that had a profound effect on all who came into contact with him. He introduced player development concepts and techniques that changed the face of WA baseball and, in large part, launched the player group that dominated Australian Baseball during the 1990's."
Riley met his second wife, Lisa, while in Australia and they had two children, Healy and Padric. He also had two children, Skyler and Brittney, from a previous marriage.
The Rileys moved back to the states where he spent a few years as an assistant baseball coach at Oregon State University. A scratch golfer, he flirted with getting a PGA teaching pro card while working as a golf professional at Trysting Tree in Corvallis and Diamond Woods in Monroe, Ore. Riley also spent time at Linn-Benton College in Albany, Ore., where he taught tennis, golf, basketball and served as an assistant baseball coach.
In 1997, Riley was hired as athletic director at LCC where he also coached golf and was an assistant baseball coach.
"We're very fortunate to have Mickey because of his knowledge of the game," LCC coach Kelly Smith said in a 1998 TDN story. "I consider him a co-head coach because of his experience, and he's made our infielders better."
Riley and his family returned to Australia in 2000, where he was diagnosed with ALS.
"You're angry," Riley said in a 2006 Portland Tribune story after he was diagnosed with the disease. "Sad. Feeling sorry for yourself. But at some point, you look at your kids. You know you have a lot to live for. They're quite a help. And Lisa - she's the most magnificent woman in the world.
"It's tough for all of them. You look at what's going to happen down the track. You look back at your life and think about all the things you did, and particularly, what did I do wrong to make this happen? I cursed my luck and accepted some responsibility."
Riley is survived by his four children, Skyler (24), Brittney (22), Healy (13) and Padric (12), his parents, and two siblings, Pam and Mike.
A celebration of Mickey's life is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday at Trysting Tree Golf Course in Albany, Ore.
Gifts or donations in memory of Mickey Riley can be made to the American Legion Stadium Fund, 339 Long Ave., Corvallis, OR 97333.