Reading About Ryan in Reading
In order to cope with the seemingly endless void that is
21st-century American life “the offseason”, MiLB.com has launched a new recurring feature entitled “Evolution”. The premise is simple, as each article takes a look at the Minor League career of a current Major League star. The first article in the series focuses on Ryan Howard, and was written by Yours Truly (a pen name that I sometimes use in place of the stultifyingly commonplace “Benjamin Hill”).
The article provides readers with information that they may find shocking — namely, that before Ryan Howard was a really good Major League player, he was a really good Minor League player. In order to bolster this sensational and deeply contrarian argument, I included a quote from Reading Phillies’ media relations guru Rob Hackash, who dealt with Howard throughout his breakout 2004 campaign
That quote was pulled from a long and informative email that Hackash sent me, one that I think should be re-published in its entirety due to the fact that it provides a lot of insight into the kind of guy Howard is. So, here goes:
While [Howard] was here, watching him on the field was something
to see but watching him
behind the scenes was just as impressive. Reading is 60 miles from Philadelphia. For a lot of players it’s
the stop along the way where the attention from media and fans really cranks
up. I’m not saying that they don’t get any at the lower levels, but it becomes
greater here. Greater in the number of people that care and how much they
care because of our proximity to Philly, and the fact that once guys show they
can play at AA people start to think that they have a chance. Ryan handled a
ton of such attention exceptionally well – plus attention from chasing Reading
and Philadelphia legend Greg Luzinski’s home run record to all the “Jim Thome’s
blocking you” talk.
I remember asking Ryan towards the end of a particularly busy media
week how he was holding up. He smiled and said “Great”.
Great? “Come on” I was skeptically thinking.
He was at a point where I thought answering the same questions
every day should have been getting to him and I was planning on building in a
break into his schedule. It wasn’t getting to him, though, and he was being
very sincere. He was going with the flow, taking it all in stride,
focusing on the right things at the right time, managing his time perfectly, and
enjoying his role. He was living it.
You’ve got to remember, when you’re an up-and-coming prospect, most
of your interviews are features and the process can get redundant. Once
you’re established in the Majors, features are still done but a lot of your
media sessions are game stuff. Not so much here. Media focuses on
telling your story – what you do and what you could do down the road as you
develop, background stuff, etc. Do you think Kyle Drabek was asked about
his dad everyday this year? Yes. Do you think he’ll still be asked
everyday five years from now? No.
After Ryan said “great” that day, he followed it up with something
along the lines of, I don’t recall word-for-word, but that if he wasn’t doing what
he was doing, he’d be doing what I was doing. He told me he was a
communications (or some related) major in college and used to do interviews
with his teammates all the time. At that point I realized he understood the
24/7 nature of being a modern athlete. I’m not at all surprised today to
see him be such a fan favorite or a successful national pitch man on top of his
MVP caliber play. He has maximized every opportunity he’s had and you can’t do
that by only being a great baseball player. You have to be great,
If you are a Minor League media relations guru with tales to tell regarding your dealings with future MLB superstars, then by all means get in touch. Perhaps your correspondence will serve as the impetus for a future MiLB.com column by the one and only “Yours Truly.”