Ramstein's Ben Ciero follows the ball in a game against Patch at Ramstein, Germany, May 9, 2015. Ciero has been selected as the Stars and Stripes baseball Athlete of the Year.

Ramstein's Ben Ciero follows the ball in a game against Patch at Ramstein, Germany, May 9, 2015. Ciero has been selected as the Stars and Stripes baseball Athlete of the Year. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stri)

Take away his intangible qualities, and Ben Ciero is an outstanding baseball player based on ability alone.

But take those intangibles into account, and Ciero is the 2015 Stars and Stripes baseball Athlete of the Year.

As just one potent bat among a small squadron of the same in the Ramstein Royal batting order, Ciero’s contributions could be easy to overlook. Fellow sluggers on either side of him, from Woody Woodruff to Antonio Ortiz to Zach Buhrer, made Ciero’s astronomical hitting numbers look almost commonplace.

A clear-eyed look at those numbers, however, reveals that they are anything but common.

Ciero hit for a .606 batting average while appearing in all 20 Ramstein games this year. His 40 hits included 16 of the extra-base variety, including five home runs. He scored 45 runs and drove in 34 more.

But Ciero did more than pile extraneous runs onto Ramstein’s undefeated championship season.

“I’m most impressed with Ben’s unending work ethic,” Royals coach Tom Yost said. “It was impressive to see how hard he would work and how he kept asking for more.”

Though it worked out spectacularly well, Ciero’s senior season wasn’t easy. Transferring into Ramstein from Lakenheath, Ciero navigated a new and larger school’s social structure while also stepping into Yost’s high-powered program as it geared up for a run at its third straight European championship.

“It’s always hard moving,” said Ciero, who also won a football championship with the Royals this school year. “Sports definitely helped.”

The abundance of hitting talent on hand in the Ramstein order might have put more pressure on each hitter to perform, especially the new arrival Ciero. But that’s not how the Royals interpreted it.

“If you were to mess up, you’ve got a guy right behind you to pick you up,” Ciero said. “I could not have asked for a better team.”

Despite his status as a Royal newbie, Ciero played an integral part in creating that dynamic, which Yost referred to as Ramstein’s “baseball family culture.” The coach said it was “fun to watch” Ciero “thrive and compete” in his new environment.

“I will be the first one to tell you that the first few weeks weren’t easy for Ben because he was outside his comfort zone,” Yost said. “He was able to fight through that and become a better player and person through that experience.”

Ciero will now have the opportunity to put all he’s learned into practice at the collegiate level. He’ll enroll this fall at Waynesburg University, a Division III program in Pennsylvania, where he was offered a spot on the school’s football team with an opportunity to make the baseball team as well.

Whatever happens at the next level, Ciero will always have the memories of his season in Ramstein: a season that was apparently perfect but was made all the more rewarding by the challenges that lurked under the surface, and the lasting relationships formed as those challenges were met.

“These guys here are brothers,” Ciero said. “I will not forget them and the times we had together.”

Twitter: @broomestripes

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