GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Ryan Garvey has a famous baseball dad.
He’s been around the game his whole life, even though his father, Steve Garvey, retired five years before Ryan was born.
Ryan Garvey has experiences his new Grand Junction Rockies teammates can’t imagine, including one he might like to forget:
He’s been booed at Yankee Stadium.
They remember who was at the plate differently — Steve remembers it as Justin Morneau; Ryan says it was Josh Hamilton — but in 2008, they went to the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Ryan, then 15 years old, was in right field shagging balls with the sons of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken.
“Oh, gosh, I was in right field, and Hamilton was hitting lasers out there, and I got my hand in front of this kid and caught the ball,” Ryan said.
“People don’t realize there are a lot of little kids out there,” Steve Garvey said as Ryan was going through his first workout at Suplizio Field as a newly signed member of the Grand Junction Rockies.
“Ryan sees it coming right at this little kid, and he takes two big steps and reaches over and catches it, or it would have hit this little kid. He’s feeling good about himself and goes toward right field, and the Yankee fans are screaming at him, ‘You stole the ball from the little kid, you so-and-so, you blankety-blank!’
“Ryan looks at the umpire, and he says, ‘Welcome to Yankee Stadium, Ryan.’ It was a classic story.”
Ryan was a little stunned.
“He was like 6 years old, and I saved his life and got booed,” he said, grinning. “They’re calling me out. I was like: Are you serious? . I just went like this (pulling his cap down over his eyes), ‘Can we go now?’
“I gave him the baseball, but gosh, the first time I’ve gotten booed I’m at Yankee Stadium and I was 15 years old. (I thought) ‘Wow, this is hard.’ ”
He’s not likely to get booed in Grand Junction, where he’s now just one of the guys in Rookie ball trying to make his way up the organizational ladder.
Ryan and his parents flew to Grand Junction on Monday afternoon, got a look at the ballpark and met the staff. Tuesday, Ryan signed his contract as practice was starting, then hustled onto the field as his father met with the media in the Lincoln Park Tower Hospitality Level.
Steve Garvey, best known for his 14-year career with the Los Angeles Dodgers — he played another five years for the Padres, retiring in 1988 — was a 10-time All-Star, won four Gold Gloves and was the 1974 National League MVP.
“He’s had a blessing and a burden,” Steve Garvey said of his son. “The blessing is the Garvey name, and the burden is trying to live up to it. He’s handled it very well over the years, and now as a Rockie he’ll be subject to anticipation, and I think he’ll handle it well.”
Steve Garvey also started his career in the Pioneer League, drafted by the Dodgers in 1968 and played for Tommy Lasorda in Ogden, Utah, where Ryan’s first pro game will be played Monday.
“That maybe was the greatest draft of all time,” Steve Garvey said of the Dodgers’ picks of Davey Lopes, Geoff Zahn, Bill Buckner, Tom Paciorek, Bobby Valentine, Ron Cey, Joe Ferguson and Garvey, some of the 14 players from the Dodgers’ January and June drafts that season who ended up in the majors.
Steve Garvey played in 1,207 consecutive games, a National League record, starting out as a third baseman but playing the majority of his career at first.
He and his son have gone to All-Star games and World Series and share their love of baseball.
“I get a few pointers from him, just see what he did and what drove his success on and off the field,” said Ryan, drafted in the 33rd round out of Riverside (Calif.) Community College. “I try to do what he’s taught me.”
Ryan is a shade taller than his dad at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds — Steve played at 5-10, 190 — with a firm handshake and the makings of his father’s still-powerful forearms.
“I’ll probably never get there,” Ryan said, looking at his forearms. “Those things are just massive.”
When Ryan was 13, he started thinking seriously about getting into the family business of baseball.
“It’s in the blood,” he said with an easy grin. “You have a dad growing up showing you all these things, and it’s always been taught to me. I want to be a Major League Baseball player.”
Right now, he’s just like the other guys on the roster. The ball flies off the bat in Colorado, he said, but “it’s tough to breathe,” and he’s trying to make a name for himself, even if the last name is known throughout baseball.
“Being able to play for a couple of years, I got over that,” he said of the pressure of being the son of a baseball legend. “I’m trying to be my own baseball player, trying to make my own name out here. I don’t think of it as much. There’s still some pressure of it, but you can only do as much as you can do.
“It’s a great resource to go back to, let me tell you. Not many people have that. I’m pretty blessed to have a father like that.”
– By PATTI ARNOLD, The Daily Sentinel
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