Dusty Ryan did not appear in his first game until the fifth game of the season. He entered in the top of the 8th inning as a defensive replacement. In the bottom of the 8th inning he led off the inning with a double to right field, and scored later in the inning. Ryan got his first start of the season eight days later on June 30, and once again made his case with his bat. Ryan had a double, two singles, and drove in four runs that game. Ryan headed back to the bench, and made another start on July 2, and once again provided thunder with a home run that game. Ryan would then sit the next day, and start every other day until July 6th. At that point Ryan was being productive each time he stepped to the plate, and hitting .400 he gained the everyday catching duties.
Many scouts questioned Ryan's ability to hit as a catcher, and that resulted him in dropping to the 48th round.
"He definitely has the prototype catcher's body" said Chris Pedretti who coached Ryan at Merced Junior College. "He is built tall, and has a very strong arm. The biggest question coming out of High School was his ability to hit, and he made great strides with us, and I think he is showing right now in Single A that he is able to hit."
Oklahoma State recruited Ryan after his sophomore season at Merced, however Ryan decided to sign with the Tigers instead.
"I just thought it was the correct time for me to start my professional career. I felt I was ready mentally and physically" said Ryan.
Ryan is certainly proving that. As of August 3, he is tied for the team lead in home runs with 3, and is third in runs batted in with 18. All this is with half the at bats of the team leaders.
Clearly Ryan's best attribute is his defensive ability, and his strong arm behind the plate. According to Coach Pedretti, he has such a strong arm he falls into bad habits because of it.
"He has such a strong arm he tends to throw from his knees at times. We had to instill in him to do the correct thing fundamentally, and not get lazy. He took advantage of his tool, and did not follow the fundamentals because of it."
Ryan began catching late during his sophomore year in high school. Previously he spent his days as a pitcher, and a third baseman.
"That's how I have such a strong arm" say's Ryan.
Being a catcher, Ryan's primary responsibility is handling the pitching staff. He does have a strong resume of that, as he called the pitches for each pitcher during high school, something that is very rare. So how hard is it handling a pitching staff, especially a brand new one for the first time?
"It's not that hard" say's Ryan. "Once you catch them in the bullpen a few times you get to know what they throw, what they like, and things like that. Once you get in a game situation it just comes natural and easy."
Ryan who looks at Pudge Rodriguez as a catcher he models his game after, say's the biggest thing a catcher needs to worry about is receiving the ball, and working together with the pitcher on the mound.
What is most impressive than his solid offensive numbers, is that he is putting them up while transitioning to professional base, and what is known to be a pitchers league.
"The pitchers here are really different than the one's I faced in Junior College" Ryan said. "First of all they are professionals, second of all they throw much harder, and lastly they have much better breaking pitches, and better command of them as well."
"It is definitely exciting being a catcher being that you are involved in every play" said Ryan. "You need to work with the pitcher constantly, and know what he is thinking on that mound."
As solid as Ryan is playing on the field, he does just as well off the field.
"He surely is a class act" Pedretti said. "He is a nice quiet kid, he works hard, and he would do anything needed to be successful."
"I told him once he signed with the Tigers that it will be a grind. I told him not to get caught up with the highs, and not to be frustrated with the lows. All he has to do is work hard, and the rest would fall into place."
Ryan certainly appears to be following that advice. He wants the Tigers fan to know this:
"I come out to play hard everyday, and work hard everyday to be the best I can."