If this was a normal April, Terry Ryan likely would be in some city that has a baseball field, preparing to watch either a minor league, college or high school baseball game.
He would be envisioning whether that 17-year-old lanky lefty could grow into a flame-throwing 24-year-old. Or if that 19-year-old can develop power to the opposite field. Of if the foot speed of that promising outfielder will ever translate into running down liners into the gap.
We are all too aware that this isn’t a normal April.
Instead of eye-balling potential major leaguers for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Janesville native is at his Minnesota home in the Twin Cities, isolated like the rest of us.
Now a special assistant to Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, Ryan is still turning in reports on players Philadelphia might be interested in acquiring through his work during spring training.
Ryan got about three weeks of scouting action in before the coronavirus pandemic forced commissioner Rob Manfred to suspend spring training March 12, not quite three weeks before the regular season was to begin.
For a baseball lifer like Ryan, that was like being told to leave the table after only eating a couple of crackers and cheese. The salad bar and main course were sent back in the kitchen.
“Now I’m just like every other scout, waiting for this virus to end so we can get back,” Ryan said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s unique.”
The closest thing to this occurred after the terrorist attack Sept. 11, 2001. Baseball shut down for a week at that time.
That shutdown came near the end of the regular season, and MLB was able to just restart the season.
This stoppage came before any regular-season games were played and before the pitchers were near regular-season pitch counts.
There are several proposals on how the season could resume.
One thing is certain: Whenever MLB gets the go-ahead to resume, some sort of Spring Training II will be required.
“We would go back to spring training like we did in the strike year in 1995,” Ryan said. “You have to get pitchers back up to four or five innings. I would expect a minimum of two weeks, right in that neighborhood.
“I would imagine they’ll get creative with rosters. They’ll expand the roster, especially for pitchers.”
Whenever that time arrives, Ryan will be ready to get back out on the road. He’s been involved in scouting since 1980 and had two stints running the Minnesota Twins as general manager.
The second one ended in the midst of the 2016 season when Ryan was let go—a move that affected the baseball man.
The Twins finished with 101 regular-season victories last season, but Ryan’s fingerprints were on that success.
Ryan drafted catcher Mitch Garvey (31 homers, 67 RBI, .273 batting average), outfielder Byron Buxton (10 HR, 46 RBI, .262 BA) and second baseman Luis Arraez (4 HR, 28 RBI, .334 BA).
He drafted starter Jose Berrios (32 starts, 14-8 record, 260 innings pitched and 3.68 ERA), and relievers Taylor Rodgers (60 games, 90 strikeouts in 69 innings, 30 saves, 1.00 WHIP, 2.61 ERA) and Tyler Duffey (58 games, 5-1 record, 1.01 WHIP, 2.50 ERA). And Ryan traded for reliever Trevor May (65 games, 5-3, 1.07 WHIP, 2.94 ERA).
Ryan did not want to comment on that.
That is expected. He is old school and well-respected by his peers, of which there are many.
“The people you come across during the years, it’s quite a fraternity,” Ryan said. “I get to go to a baseball game. What more could you want? I get to watch baseball games. Who would have ever thought that?”
The 66-year-old baseball fan is not being swayed toward retirement with his unusual long stint at home as the weather warms.
“I do enjoy it,” Ryan said. “I’m very fortunate to be in this position. It’s a great profession to be in.”
Unfortunately, that profession—like most everything else—is currently at a standstill.