Baseball: Transfer Risi brings power to Butler

Kansas State had him once.

Muscatine Community College had him once.

But now, Butler University has junior first baseman Jimmy Risi all the time.

Risi has brought power and team-leading offensive numbers to the Bulldogs despite getting off to what he called a “crappy” start.

Risi is currently leading Butler in multiple categories, including slugging percentage (.646), home runs (six) and RBI (26).

An Illinois native, Risi was a history-maker at Highland Park High School.

He set school records in home runs (27), runs batted in (118) and doubles (38). He also set the school record for best single-season batting average (.468) and eventually earned a full-ride scholarship to Kansas State.

“I stayed [at Kansas State] for a year, but I left the team right before the season started,” Risi said. “I played in the fall and was going to play for the team but decided to leave. It just wasn’t for me.”

Risi then spent two years with Muscatine, a junior college in eastern Iowa. There he led the team in home runs and batting average, among other offensive categories, during both seasons.

But Muscatine would not be Risi’s final stop.

He began emailing universities, looking to move again. Although the majority sent no reply, former Butler assistant coach Matt Tyner did.

“It was exciting,” Risi said. “I didn’t think [the Butler coaching staff] was going to email back.”

Two days after his second season with Muscatine ended, he made an official visit to Butler.

“It was kind of an emotional time,” said Risi, who had to say goodbye to friends at Muscatine, visit with family at home and visit a brand-new school, all in the span of 48 hours.

“I was home for one day, and then it was, ‘OK, now you have to go visit another school and make a decision within a week,’” Risi said.

After traveling to Indianapolis, Risi settled on Butler. He said he was enticed by the campus, the school and the people, including those who are now his teammates and coaches.

“Right from the first week on, all of the guys were great,” Risi said. “They were all so supportive and welcoming.”

Risi called coach Steve Farley “a father figure” and said that “he treats you like a person, which is different from other places.”

“Jimmy is off to a great start this season,” Farley said. “It helped that some of our players from the Chicago area played against him in high school.”

One of those players is senior pitcher Brad Schnitzer, who was on a national runner-up team with Risi at age 12.

“Jimmy is somebody who, right away, everybody really liked,” Schnitzer said. “He meshed with the team really quickly. He hits the ball harder and farther than anybody else, but he’s so humble about it.”

Yesterday in Butler’s 12-5 win over Bellarmine, Risi went 1-for-2 with four RBI and Butler’s lone home run.

“I just want to continue to help the team win and get better any way I can,” Risi said.

He said he has a couple of goals in mind for his time at Butler, including taking more of a leadership role as a senior.

The primary objective, however, is a Horizon League title this year.

“To me, Jimmy is capable of being one of the top power hitters in the Horizon League,” Farley said. “We are excited to have him in a Bulldog uniform.”

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