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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Versatile Ryder Ryan does it all

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS - He just might be the closest thing to a jack-of-all-trades that was inside the Metrodome on Tuesday for the first day of the 2012 Perfect Game Junior National  Showcase.

Ryder Ryan, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound No. 5-ranked 2014 prospect from Huntersville, N.C., was the only one of the nearly 140 prospects at the showcase event who participated in at least five of the six workout sessions Tuesday morning. He then immediately started in the showcase's first game, which began early afternoon.

"It's a good opportunity for me because if I don't do good at one position I can just switch to whichever one I want to do," Ryan said, adding that he really doesn't have a primary position, although he is most readily identified as a catcher. His PG profile also lists him as a third baseman, right-handed pitcher and outfielder.

"It's so much fun just being out there playing any position," he said. "I love the game of baseball and it's just so much fun."

It's kind of ironic that Ryder won't call catcher his primary position since he is the top-ranked prospect at that position in the 2014 class. He is joined at this showcase by top-35 catching prospects Jakson Reetz (No. 21), John Jones (No. 33) and Jonah Girand (No. 35).

Ryan's workout efforts were very impressive. His  83 mph catcher's arm speed ranked first among the participants and his 1.94 POP was tied for sixth. His 93 mph outfield arm velocity tied for first among those who competed in the workout and his 90 mph throw across the infield tied for second.

His 7.13-second 60-yard dash was somewhat pedestrian and he didn't compete in the first basemen throw across the infield (first to third). He also took his required number of cuts during the  batting practice session. It was a busy morning, to say the least.

"It's so much fun to see these guys out here and it's great competition," Ryan said. "It's just really fun to be here and this right here(the PG Junior National) is one of the best things out there. I want to come out here and work hard and do my best and just show what I got.

"I like meeting new guys and seeing what's around me and what I have to work on."

Ryder's dad, former professional player Sean Ryan, was with his son Tuesday, just as he's been along for the previous four PG events Ryder participated in. Even though Ryder still has two more summers of travel ball action and two more springs of high school baseball ahead of him, Sean said it's already been a pretty fun ride.

"It's been fantastic," he said Tuesday while leaning on the grandstand railing right down the first base line. "We just try to not put any pressure on him because the boys, they put enough pressure on themselves. We have a history through our family of baseball players and the biggest thing that I learned along my journey playing ball was to just go out there and have fun; it's a game, so relax and let your body perform. The more you relax the better your body is going to perform.

"Don't worry about stats, don't worry about all that fun stuff; just go out there and respect the game and play the game hard every inning until it's over."

Sean Ryan played six seasons in the minor leagues after being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 38th round of the 1990 MLB amateur draft out of Rutgers. A primary first baseman, Sean played 66 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre - the Phillies Triple-A affiliate in the International league - in 1993 and after two more seasons playing in a couple of independent leagues, he called it quits.

Sean's brother and Ryder's uncle, Jason Ryan, made it to the big leagues. Jason, a right-handed pitcher, made his Major League debut for the Minnesota Twins in August of 1999 right inside the Metrodome where Ryder was performing on Tuesday.

"I thought that was neat to come back here, because I remember meeting my brother right here in this stadium when he got called up in '99," Sean said. "I said, 'Here we go; Ryder, now it's your turn so go get 'em."

Ryder will play with the highly regarded South Charlotte Panthers this summer, the same team he was with at last year's PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. "I want to work hard with those guys and see where we can go," he said.

Ryder has not committed to a college yet but did say he was offered a 40 percent scholarship from North Carolina State when he was a freshman and is also entertaining overtures from Clemson and South Carolina. As the college offers come streaming in, as they almost certainly will be in the coming months, Ryder said he's just going to keep on keeping on.

"I just play hard and see where I come out," he said. "Me and my dad, we worked so hard to get here and spent so much time hitting in a cage, throwing and everything."

Sean Ryan, armed with an education earned in NCAA Division I and minor league baseball, is only hopeful that Ryder will learn from the opportunities he's been presented. There shouldn't be a rush to find a college and there doesn't even need to be a rush to find a primary position.

"Being as young as he is with the grade that he's in, experiencing as much of this as you can before it really, really counts is just feathers in his cap," Sean said. "By the time he's a senior, God-willing if he's out here still pursuing his dream and if he stays healthy and keeps progressing, experiences like this are only going to help him.

"Even if he doesn't play baseball, I think experiences like this help these boys in real life, as well, because you're going to be jockeying for a position whether it's outside the ball field or inside the ball field, and experiences like this really help these kids."

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