Welcome to the Woods, Axel Riess

The Spectator celebrates Axel Riess’s commitment to Dartmouth College.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When many people think of Stuyvesant, they think of academic rigor, APs, and, sometimes, antiquated team names. In the face of that reputation, the commendable athletic talent within Stuyvesant often goes unnoticed. However, that lack of recognition takes nothing away from incredible athletic achievements––for example, committing to a Division I team before the end of junior year, something that millions of student-athletes will only ever dream of. 

That dream came true for junior Axel Riess, who accepted an offer to play Division I baseball at Dartmouth College. Riess, the 2023 MVP of Stuyvesant Baseball, took his already-ascendant skill to a new level this season, consistently delivering for the Peglegs offensively and defensively throughout the season. Riess set a Stuyvesant record for hits and OPS in a season, while also leading the PSAL in home runs and triples. While Riess’s dominance this year highlights just how deserving he was of his offer, his unwavering determination, even more than his unbelievable skill, allowed him to reach his dream. In the words of his teammates, Peter Carini said, “You don’t play a full baseball game and make time to head to the gym to get a three-hour workout in when you have another three hours of homework hanging over your head if it doesn’t mean a lot to you.”

In addition to making his own dream come true, Riess has inspired countless other Stuyvesant athletes to envision similar success for themselves. “With Axel paving the way for [Stuyvesant] athletes at the highest level, I know there are a few younger guys that are considering that path now,” Carini said.

Riess’s accomplishments are nothing short of phenomenal, and his success represents a greater revolution within Stuyvesant athletics as the school begins to slowly rewrite its reputation. In the meantime, however, The Spectator would like to celebrate Riess’s achievements by sharing a glimpse into his world. 

How long have you been playing baseball? What got you into it?

I’ve been playing since I was five. My dad really loved baseball, so that’s why I started playing. I liked pretty much every sport, but baseball was always my favorite.

For those who haven’t seen you play, describe your game.

My game isn’t anything special, but I’m kind of a power-hitter with speed. I think the best part of my game is the mental side. I’m always looking for a way to impact the game, whether that be stealing an extra base or getting a base hit to the runner. I always try to do what’s right given the situation. 

At what point did you begin to consider playing in college?

I started thinking about playing in college at the beginning of my sophomore year. I realized that I had to start working a lot harder if I wanted to continue playing after high school, and I couldn’t see myself getting into a top-tier school any other way. I had always been good but realized then that I needed to get a lot bigger and better to stand out to a coach when there are tens of thousands of kids who want the same opportunity.

What was the recruitment process like? 

The recruitment process was pretty stressful. I am lucky that mine ended early-ish, and I didn’t have to go through another summer of showcases and emailing/calling coaches, as that was really stressful. It takes a lot of time and effort to get noticed by colleges, and you especially need to be persistent with updates and videos to keep coaches interested. But it was also really fun to travel around and look at schools, play on their fields for showcases, and figure out what type of school I wanted to go to.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in your game in the past few years once you began on the college track?

The biggest change was during my sophomore year. I started taking it a lot more seriously, lifting on a routine and monitoring what I eat with the goal of gaining weight. Over my sophomore year, I got a lot bigger, and my metrics shot up. That’s kind of when I realized that I had a real shot at getting recruited. I just take the game a lot more seriously now, but that also makes it more fun because I’m playing a lot better.

What did you have to sacrifice along the way?

There is definitely a lot of sacrifice with trying to play in college. For me, I knew that casual lifting and only training at mandatory team practices wouldn’t get me a spot on a college roster. Once you decide your goal, it’s necessary that you go all in on working towards that goal. For example, I knew that my goal was to play at an Ivy League level, but also that there were only eight spots available for my position that would let me meet that goal. This pushed me to work really hard, knowing that the odds were extremely low. But I knew that I should work as hard as I could, and if it didn’t work out I couldn’t have any regrets nor wish that I tried harder. 

What’s the biggest difference between playing club and high school baseball?

The biggest difference between club and high school baseball is the individuality. Club teams are a lot better for connecting you with college coaches and for your development. Especially in the summer, it doesn’t really matter which team wins. It’s more focused on everyone getting a chance to improve while also showcasing their skills to coaches. High school ball is more focused on winning games and enjoying the season with your teammates. 

What are you most looking forward to when playing in college?

I’m most looking forward to playing on amazing fields with amazing coaches, teammates, and facilities. I’m really excited to see how I’ll develop with very knowledgeable coaching and high-level facilities that are based around developing me and my teammates. I’m also really excited to travel around the country and play the best competition. While most of my games will be against other Ivies and northeast schools, our team travels to play schools like the University of Miami and Duke at certain times of the year. It’ll be a great experience to see and play with some of the top players in the country.

What drew you to Dartmouth?

I was drawn to Dartmouth because of its academics. The whole point of getting recruited for me was to use baseball to get a great education, and it doesn’t get much better than the Ivy League from an educational standpoint. It’s a D1 program with amazing academic opportunities that I feel will set me up for success in my life.

Were there any clear turning points in your path to getting recruited that you can recall? 

One defining moment was at my first showcase last summer. I really didn’t know what my metrics were like and had a lot of doubt about whether I was good enough to get recruited. But at this first event, I hit 92 exit velocity off the tee. This was important to me because that was a 20 mph increase from less than a year ago. It was kind of surprising but showed me that I was on the right path and that everything I had been training for was helpful and worth it. That’s when I first realized that I could compete with most high-level players and truly had a shot at achieving my dream.