Ryan Helsley Family & Girlfriend: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

ryan helsley family

Instagram Ryan Helsley with his girlfriend Alex Butcher (l) and his family (r).

Ryan Helsley is a Major League Baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Helsley’s criticism of the Tomahawk Chop chant, which he finds disrespectful to his community, encouraged the Atlanta Braves to reduce its use, at least when he’s on the field. He’s from a tight-knit Oklahoma family with deep ties to the Cherokee Nation, and he’s engaged to be married in December 2019.

Helsley is one of only a few citizens of the Cherokee Nation to be drafted by Major League Baseball. According to Indian Country Today, others included O.J. King (Cincinnati Reds) in 2002, and J.R. Sellers (Kansas City Athletics and Cincinnati Reds) in the 1960s. The Athletic reports that the Cherokee Nation counts seven members who have reached the majors, including Ryan Franklin, Adrian Houser, Jon Gray and Dylan Bundy.

David Walkingstick, who has served as a Cherokee Nation tribal council member, told The St. Louis Post Dispatch that Helsley “Makes our school proud. Makes our town proud. Makes our tribe proud.”

“I can’t thank God enough for the opportunities and talents he has given me in this game,” Helsley wrote on his Instagram page.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Helsley, Whose Parents Both Have Cherokee Heritage, Said the Chop ‘Devalues’ His Community

Mark Saxon, senior MLB writer for The Athletic, quoted Helsley as saying, “It kind of devalues our Cherokee heritage and the Native-American history. Us as Cherokee native people went through a lot in this country.”

Helsley’s maternal grandfather is a full-blooded Cherokee, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. His great-grandmother worked at the local cultural heritage center and was featured on a postcard weaving baskets. The Athletic reports that Helsley’s mother is almost full-blooded Cherokee as well, and his father is one-quarter.

Helsley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he felt the tomahawk chop is disrespectful. “I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” Helsley said to the newspaper. “Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that. It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and it devalues us and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that.”

The Braves subsequently suspended use of handing out foam tomahawks for Game 5 of the National League Division Series, saying in a statement given to Saxon, “Out of respect for the concerns expressed by Mr. Helsley, we will take several efforts to reduce the Tomahawk Chop during our in-ballpark presentation today. Among other things, these steps include not distributing foam tomahawks to each seat and not playing the accompanying music or using Chop-related graphics when Mr. Helsley is in the game. As stated earlier, we will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience. We look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason.” The practice dated to the 1990s.

People offered divided reactions to the Braves’ action on Saxon’s comment thread. “So, they’ll refrain if he’s in the game. Otherwise, it’s game on. Ohhhhhhkaaayyyy,” wrote one Twitter user. “So… it’s racist enough that they’ll stop doing it in front of the first nations player, but not racist enough that they’ll stop doing it altogether?” wrote another. “That’s a weak move, Atlanta,” piped up another. Some people supported the Braves. “Finally some movement on this. The tomahawk chop is an embarassing (sic) relic,” a woman wrote on Twitter.

2. Helsley Was a Pitching Standout at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Where He Attended an All Native American High School

Helsley’s roots are in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He graduated from Sequoyah High School there in 2013. After that, according to Indian Country Today, he attended Northeastern State University in that same community. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Helsley attended an all-Native American high school and was the first player from that school to reach the majors.

His parents are named Jason and Sherry Helsley. “Just wanna wish my beautiful momma a happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for always being there for me and supporting me in everything I do,” Helsley wrote on Instagram.

The news site reports that Helsley was the first player from the university drafted in the “first five rounds” of the MLB draft. His strikeout total of 13.4 per game was fifth in the country, Indian Country Today reports. The only college that recruited him was the school in his hometown, according to the Post Dispatch.

Helsley, according to the Cards, is 25 years old. He’s a 6 foot 1 inch tall, 195 pound righthander. You can see his stats here. He made his MLB debut in April 2019. The site explains, “Draft: 2015, St. Louis Cardinals, Round: 5, Overall Pick: 161.”

His Cardinals’ bio reads, “Played college baseball at Northeastern State (OK) University… Struck out 95 batters over 63.2 innings including four double-digit strikeout games in just 12 starts his sophomore year… Named Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association Freshman of the Year in 2014…Graduated from Sequoyah (OK) High School where he was an All-State performer in both baseball and basketball… Resides in Cookson, Oklahoma…Is a member of the Cherokee tribe.”

The team wrote of his accomplishments in 2018: “Combined to go 5-3 with a 3.97 ERA over 13 starts between Springfield (AA), Memphis (AAA) and the Gulf Coast League (R), in a season halted due to right shoulder tendinitis…Opened the season on the Springfield roster and made his final appearance in the Gulf Coast League (2.2 IP, 0 R) on 8/6 before being shut down for the season…Struck out 40 batters over 33.1 innings during the month of May in the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues…Was one of three Cardinals pitchers to strike out 40 or more batters in the month (Alex Reyes 44, Daniel Ponce de Leon 42)…Led all Cardinals minor league pitchers holding the opposition to a .194 batting average…Posted two double-digit strikeout games, both a seasonhigh 10 batters, with one coming each in Springfield (AA) vs. Tulsa (5/5) and one in Memphis (AAA) vs. Colorado Springs (5/28)…Struck out nine or more batters in each of his first three starts while pitching for Memphis (4/29-5/28)…Scorched left-handed batters in Memphis to a .108 clip (4-37) with one extra base hit (double) and 13 strikeouts…Threw over 100 pitches in five of his 13 starts with a season high 111 over 6.0 innings at Arkansas (5/11).”

3. Helsley’s Arm Stood Out When he Wasn’t Yet a Teen & He Was Engaged in 2018 to His Girlfriend, Alex Butcher

According to The Athletic, the powerful force that is Ryan Helsley’s arm stood out from the start, dating back to age 11 and 12. Other parents complained that he was “throwing the ball too hard from third base.” His dad told them to “teach their kids to catch it.”

In college, The Athletic reports, his 97 mph fastball drew the attention of scouts. He played for the Santa Barbara Foresters for a time. In 2015, the Cards signed him for $225,000 in the fifth round of the MLB draft.

On Twitter, Helsley writes things like, “If you don’t believe in yourself then who will?” His cover photo on Twitter reads, “For I will walk by faith.” His profile includes a reference to a proverb that reads, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” His Instagram profile reads, “St. Louis Cardinals Pitcher Saved by Grace #IamSecond.”

View this post on Instagram

#1 fan #youdabest

A post shared by Ryan Helsley (@ryanhelsley14) on Aug 2, 2017 at 10:59am PDT

Does Helsley have a wife or girlfriend? His Instagram and Twitter posts indicate he proposed to girlfriend Alex Butcher in December 2018. “Here’s to forever,” he wrote with a post of his girlfriend showing off a ring. With another post showing them together, he wrote, “Sunday’s= Faith, Fair, Food, And Football with this babe ?#livedreambe.”

A wedding registry in their names indicates she will become his wife on December 1, 2019.

On Twitter, she lists herself as being from his hometown and writes, “?? Second {Galations 2:20}? NSUOCO Doctor of Optometry ‘22 ? Tahlequah, OK ✈️ wherever baseball takes me.” With one photo of Ryan on Instagram, Alex wrote, “Stayed up over 24 hours and drove 900 miles just to eat breakfast and give this guy a hug on his birthday ?.”

In April 2019, she posted a picture of herself in a bridal shop with wedding dresses and wrote, “Checked a big step off the list today. Swipe to see how I REALLY feel about it ? #headoverhelsley.” The subsequent photos showed her with a split of champagne. Her Instagram posts indicate they’ve been dating for at least four years.

4. Helsley Is Considered a Role Model Who Helps Tutor Elementary Students & His Ancestors Go Back to the Trail of Tears

View this post on Instagram

Oh what a wonderful time #CHRISTmas2k17 #BabyNevi

A post shared by Ryan Helsley (@ryanhelsley14) on Dec 20, 2017 at 4:28pm PST

Helsley speaks some words in the Cherokee language, according to Yahoo, and his ancestors were part of the forced march called the Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears, in the early 1800s, received its name when the U.S. government forced the Cherokee nation to move to what is now Oklahoma, giving up their lands and facing “hunger, disease, and exhaustion” along the way, according to PBS, which noted that almost one-third of the Cherokee people on the march perished.

Sellers, 71, one of the other two Cherokee citizens to be drafted by professional baseball, described the important of Helsley to his community in an interview with Indian Country Today. “It’s a great influence. I never had a chance to pitch professionally, but I still run into young people who watched me play,” said Sellers to the site. “As I think [Helsley’s] a big influence for a lot of the Cherokee Indian people. That influence also teaches the kids how to live every day like they should live.”

“You represent a family,” Helsley told the Post Dispatch. The newspaper explained that he’s a volunteer who gives back, helping a great aunt who teaches an immersion school in the Cherokee language, and helping tutor elementary school children in his hometown.

5. Helsley’s Mom Works in Radiology, His Dad Does Work at the Local Hospital & He Has a Twin Brother Named Kyle

According to the Athletic, Helsley’s dad works as a heating, venting and air conditioning specialist at the Cherokee Nation Hospital, and his mom is a radiology physician’s assistant.

He has two brothers named Kyle and Caleb.

A 2003 article by Will Chavez, assistant editor for the Cherokee Phoenix, explained the importance of Native American athletes. “During sporting events we always looked for other Native American players or those who looked native. We wanted to cheer for these guys, because we were looking for our own heroes – people that looked like us. The white world had their sports heroes, but our heroes were few and far in between,” he wrote.

“I believe soon we will see more Native players on the gridiron, baseball diamond, basketball court and other sports venues. Native American football players like Sam Claphan and Chris Bush will be commonplace when I turn on my TV in the fall to watch football. Their successes will be cheered by all of us because they will be our successes too. The current and next generation of Native American athletic heroes will let the world know we are still here, and we are more than capable.”

That was 16 years before Ryan Helsley would play for the Cards.

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