ALS claims life of former Oregon State baseball star Mickey Riley

Mickey Riley played for his father Jack from 1980-83 at Oregon State, helping lead the Beavers to two Pac-10 North Division titles and the NCAA Regionals in 1983. Mickey Riley, 51, died Friday morning. (Corvallis Gazette-Times file photo)

CORVALLIS - Former Oregon State baseball star Mickey Riley died on Friday morning in Corvallis, ending his five-year fight with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

He was 51.

The son of longtime Beavers coach Jack Riley, Mickey was an all-Pac-10 second baseman as a junior in 1982. He was born Aug. 8, 1961, in Corvallis.

He was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2005 while living and coaching in Australia.

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 3 to 5 years after diagnosis.

Mickey graduated from Corvallis High along with Harold Reynolds - he attended Crescent Valley for three years where he was teammates with Jim Wilson.

Mickey and Wilson were reunited at OSU and the two helped lead the Beavers to the 1982 and '83 North Division crowns.

The Beavers made an NCAA regional in 1983.

"Mick was a pretty easy guy to be around," Wilson told the Portland Tribune.

Small in stature, Mickey Riley was more than a spark plug for the Beavers. He batted second in the lineup as a switch-hitter, finished his OSU career with 169 hits. Mickey, who stood 5-foot-5 1/2 as a college senior, remains second on the career walks list.

"Mick had probably the best strike zone of anyone I ever coached," said Jack Riley, who led the Beavers for 22 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."

Mickey turned that mind to coaching after playing professional baseball and basketball in Australia.

He was ambidextrous, shooting with either hand, as a basketball star at CV and CHS in high school.

In an interview with ESPN: The Magazine, Reynolds spoke about Mickey helping him become more effective as a switch hitter in the major leagues.

"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. "The key with switch-hitting is to hit exactly the same way left-handed as right-handed. But that's so hard to do - find your identity from each side."

Mickey met his second wife, Lisa, while in Australia and they had two children, Healy and Padric. Mickey also had two children, Skyler and Brittney, from a previous marriage.

He spent a few years coaching alongside his father. He also spent some time at Linn-Benton Community College and served as athletic director at Lower Columbia Community College in Longview, Wash., for a time.

Then he returned to Australia in the early 2000s.

Little things - his thumb slipping off on his golf grip, the ball not travelling as far - gradually added up for him as he noticed he felt weaker. A battery of tests led to the diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's disease.

"You're angry," he told the Tribune. "Sad. Feeling sorry for yourself. But at some point you look at your kids. You know you have a lot to live for."

A celebration of Mickey's life is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at Trysting Tree Golf Course.

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Sports Reporter/Copy Editor for the Gazette-Times. Primary responsibilities for Oregon State baseball, high school football, soccer and volleyball