Ryan Harvey: Baseball California Style

Outfielder Ryan Harvey rounded out a highly successful season, for both him and his team, by being named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Team. He joined the roster as a designated hitter-- something Ryan takes special pride in. Picked up in 2003 from the University of California Riverside, Ryan started his career with the Mets as a Bomber.

He was moved down to Brooklyn later in the season. At both clubs batting seemed to be his strong suit. He hit .277 in 119 at-bats in South Carolina and .304 in 46 at-bats in New York. Ryan's skill with a bat doesn't elude him. He knows it's his strength and something that will keep him pro until his other talents are sharpened. "I've always been able to hit. That's what kept me playing in college. The last two years, hitting has got me up to this level." Manager Jack Lind is also well aware of what Harvey can do behind the plate. "He's one of the best hitters in the league and a good base runner as well." This year Ryan had the third highest average, .325, and also managed to steal 12 bases, a skill which he's diligently practicing. Like most baseball players, the sport was his dream growing up. He took particular care dressing for his Little League games. "I used to get ready for my Little League games four hours in advance. I'd sit around in my house with my uniform on." Today he has little time to sit around at all. Between the grueling schedule of daily games in severe heat and days off where he catches up on normal things, like paying the bills, Ryan has precious few seconds to breathe. But that's just how he likes it. "It gets tough and it's a grind, but when it's all said and done you get to sit down and watch baseball and participate. Anybody'd trade their life for this."

The life that he so thoroughly appreciates now is one he almost didn't make it to. As a child Ryan was turned on to baseball by his dad. After his parents got divorced the baseball future seemed in jeopardy. His mom, however, stepped up and kept her son in the game. She even went so far as to serve as one of his coaches for a while. After growing up a bit, and getting through middle school unscathed, Ryan was made to start work freshman year of high school. While this might not be a problem for most teenagers, Ryan's dreams of major league success demanded determination and dedication. Instead of practicing, Ryan toiled away in a bowling alley earning a small paycheck. Opportunities flew by for summer leagues and it took Ryan longer to get drafted than he would have liked. Nonetheless, he is happy going to work and is not in the least bit deterred. "I always pictured myself making it."

Today Ryan divides his off-season time between working and working out, a combination that's stood him in good stead with his in-season statistics. Not only does he have the All-American past time to exercise his athletic skills, but he also enjoys snow and wakeboarding. Self-taught in snowboarding, Ryan's been doing it since 1998. El Nino was around when he started and the freak weather caused the snow to be powder soft, cushioning numerous falls that are a right of passage. Perfecting his technique without breaking any bones definitely helped hook Ryan to the sport. Now when he sees novices plowing headfirst into the packed snow he cringes with a grateful "glad it's not me."

Relatively new to professional baseball, Harvey says that he's still getting used to the switch in bat materials, as well as his new position. Although he plays left field, Ryan was actually trained as a right fielder. With the change in position comes a change in skills needing to be developed. Learning and incorporating the difference in angles to third and home have taken up the majority of Ryan's focus this year in defense. Accustomed to right, Ryan's jumps now need to be modified. Keeping a light view of his job, Harvey tries not to put too much pressure on himself. Besides the motivational pressure that's needed to simply make himself practice harder, otherwise known as discipline and ambition, Ryan stays optimistic and keeps in mind that if one at-bat that went horribly wrong it's still only one at-bat, nothing that can't be fixed or improved with the next.

Ryan's attitude, along with his considerable offensive skills, have greatly contributed to his team's winning season. Focused on his goal, Harvey's loyalty to the game is unwavering. He's willing to put in the extra time needed for faster improvement. His first year with the Mets was right after a long college season. Not only did Harvey stretch himself every game, but he hit the gym more often and went in for more bp on his own. Pushing himself to such extremes took its toll and although Ryan posted impressive stats, he also sported a sore body. Now lightening up a bit on his workouts, Harvey has yet to stop running the extra mile, sometimes literally, and put down the weights. His ability and willingness to go above and beyond keep him in the game he loves so much and, hopefully, one day might lead him to Shea Stadium.

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