2021-2022 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Sam Ryan takes the ball in the latest episode of C’s Chat.

C's Chat

Fairfax High School in his hometown of Fairfax, Virginia was where Ryan began establishing his credentials on the mound. Among the highlights were a seven-inning complete game against a Venezuelan travel team during a spring trip to Florida in 2014 and a no-hitter against Langley in his senior season of 2016. Ryan struck out 16 batters in that no-no and that was among the 103 strikeouts he racked up overall. That led to him earning Co-Pitcher of the Year honours in the Liberty Conference.

Before enrolling in college, Ryan pitched for the Vienna River Dogs of the Cal Ripken League where he logged 12-1/3 innings of relief and struck out nine batters. He would remain in the Old Dominion state as he joined Virginia Commonwealth University for his freshman campaign in 2017. Ryan pitched just two innings over three appearances and recorded his first collegiate strikeout. He got in more work on the mound in summer college ball with the Sag Harbor Whalers of the Hamptons League where he totalled 53 strikeouts in 48-2/3 innings and pitched a complete game. Ryan also saw time in the batter’s box with the New York State club by collecting a hit and three walks to give him a .308 on-base percentage in 14 plate appearances.

The 2018 season saw Ryan make 11 starts in 19 appearances for the Rams and he won four of six decisions with a 4.14 earned run average. He struck out 68 batters in 63 innings and posted a walks-hit-innings pitched ratio of 1.16. His best performance came against his hometown university by blanking host George Mason over five innings in which he struck out eight on April 22. Opposing Ryan on the hill that day was future 2019 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Jared DiCesare who threw 10 shutout frames with seven Ks on just 99 pitches. However, Ryan and the Rams prevailed in 12 innings with a 1-0 win over the Patriots.

In 2019, Ryan took over the closer’s role at VCU and he earned seven saves and four wins while putting up a K/BB total of 61-19 and a .265 ERA over 54-1/3 innings. On the recommendation of scout Coulson Barbiche Jr., the Toronto Blue Jays selected Ryan in the 12th round of the MLB Draft.

Ryan’s baseball days in Virginia were not quite done yet as he was assigned to Bluefield in what turned out to be the final year of affiliated pro ball at Bowen Field. He pitched 41-1/3 innings over eight starts and three relief appearances in which he struck out 35 batters and walked eight. His first professional win came on August 21 as he limited Princeton to two runs over five innings and struck out six.

With no baseball due to COVID in 2020, Ryan’s next competitive pitch came in 2021 with the Vancouver/Hillsboro Canadians. His first outing came on Opening Night in Tri-City where he threw a shutout inning on April 4. After another scoreless frame during the C’s “home” opener against Spokane on April 11, Ryan was promoted to New Hampshire and struck out the first Double-A batter he faced enrolee to a perfect frame against Somerset on April 15. He gave up runs in his next two appearances but bounced back with 2-2/3 shutout innings and three strikeouts against Portland on May 23.

The month of June saw Ryan go back to the Northwest League where he put up two shutout frames against Eugene on June 1 before ringing up seven Emeralds over three innings on June 4. He pitched a season-high four innings of one-run ball in Spokane on June 12 but his season came to an end a week later. Ryan would undergo surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and would miss the remainder of 2021 and the start of 2022.

Ryan made a triumphant return to the mound with a shutout inning for the Florida Coast League Blue Jays to earn the victory against the FCL Tigers on July 12. After six innings of one-run ball in four FCL appearances, Ryan was bumped up to Dunedin and did not give up a run over 6-1/3 innings. His final two innings were of the no-hit variety and so were the efforts of Kendry Rojas, Cooper Benson and Ian Churchill as that foursome no-hit Tampa on August 14.

That led to another promotion for Ryan as he was summoned to Vancouver. He contributed a shutout inning in a series-opening win in Spokane on August 30 and also put up a zero on the linescore in the playoff-clinching victory against Eugene on September 7.

C’s Plus Baseball chatted with Ryan before the final game of the 2022 regular season. This interview has been edited for clarity.

C’s Plus Baseball – What was your draft day experience like?

Sam Ryan – It was pretty funny actually. I was at VCU where I went to college and I was actually working out with a bunch of the guys and my phone just started lighting up like crazy and I kind of knew I was gonna get my name called at some point during the day. But I didn’t get a call or anything before it happened. So I found out after the fact but then I got a call pretty soon thereafter. It was pretty fun. I drove home and got ready to fly out. So it was a whirlwind.

CPB – How did it feel when you found out you got drafted?

SR -At first I was just kind of like, ‘Holy crap! Like now we gotta go.’ You don’t wanna get ahead of yourself. I was kind of sitting there in college kind of just like if I go back for this fourth year, which I didn’t want to, Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind it but you know the opportunity came and I had to jump on it.

CPB – Did you have any idea the Blue Jays were interested in you?

SR – I only got one other call during the draft process leading up to it. I had like a good amount of teams reaching out kind of at games. But Coulson (Barbiche Jr.) told me to sit tight and then I’d get picked. So I just kind of waited. It happened and it kind of all worked out. It was exciting.

CPB – Virginia Commonwealth. What stands out to you when you look back on your time there?

SR -The guys. The guys there, they’re some of my best friends. We had a great time on and off the field. We love playing together and the coaching staff let us be ourselves. It’s kind of just smooth, a kind of relaxed vibe in the locker room, the clubhouse, like good things usually happen and nothing ever came of it. We never got a ring there or anything while I was there but it was three good seasons. I had a lot of fun all three seasons. There’s nothing but good memories.

CPB – What would you say was your best memory or maybe your best game there?

SR – I got to pitch against my hometown team George Mason and they’re like literally in my hometown, kind of rivals of VCU. Our head coach used to go there so there was a little bit of history there and I was pitched really well in front of my hometown, like friends and family and that was cool.

CPB – Who would you say has helped you out the most in your career?

SREric Crozier. He was my first travel ball coach. He actually played for the Blue Jays professionally. He was a great mentor. He knew everything about pro ball and he’s been a great figure in my life and my career. And then moving forward, Bill Wilkinson. He was one of the high school coaches and I’m really good friends with his kids. Most of them are my age, but they’re just there with a great group of guys, like that whole Wilkinson family. But Bill and Eric are probably the two biggest names I can think of. There are a ton of people but those are the two off the top of my head.

CPB -When did you become a pitcher?

SR – I wanted to be a catcher at first because I liked like being able to call the game but then literally you couldn’t call the game so it didn’t matter. And then I was like ‘Fine, I’ll just pitch.’ It kind of just worked out. I threw a curveball by accident when I was like nine or something because one of my teammates just showed me a grip. He was like, ‘Dude! What do you think this would do?’ We were just throwing it and then I broke it out in a game one day and the coach was just like, ‘What do you doing?’ And I was like,’ I don’t know. It’s pretty nice though, huh?’ Ever since I was kind of stuck with pitching but I hit through high school. I was a good enough athlete. I stayed on the field.

CPB – Did you take part in any other sports other than baseball?

SR – Not like seriously? I played basketball and football but that was more so just like free time rec leagues, just kind of keeping active in the off-season. My main focus was baseball but I got a nice jump shot.

CPB – You’re pitching mix. You mentioned a curveball. What is it that you do throw?

SR -So now it’s fastball, slider, change up. The curveball, it’s here and there like it’s more so if I’ve thrown eight pitches to a dude and I’m just trying to show him something new. But I love my fastball and slider. The changeup’s coming along nicely. But that’s the fun part about pitching, you know, it’s always changing. Some days something will click and you’ll figure out like, ‘Yeah I can keep doing this.’ And you know, you can say you find a pitch in a spot that works one day, it’s like why not keep going back to that. It’s always evolving. But fastball, slider, changeup for now.

CPB – The fastball. A four-seam, two-seam or both?

SR -Both. Four-seam but you know, it likes to run so sometimes it plays like a two-seam. The more movement, the better. I’ve always thought that. So it’s a four-seam but it’ll move.

CPB – The slider. Did anyone show you that?

SRConnor Cooke actually has helped me a lot with like a cue. It’s like a grip I’ve had but ‘Cookie’ was telling me, you know, to kind of lead with your pinky ring finger and kind of use that part of your hand. It just lets you get to the side of it. Yeah, it really helped my spin but that’s just kind of like a slider grip I’ve had since college. But like hearing those cues and just talking with the guys sometimes it just clicks a little more and it’s been nice. Like I’ve definitely been able to find it more because the slider was a pitch I tore my UCL on so that was the one I wanted to have it back because it’s my favourite pitch to throw. But that little cue is helping me get back to fully comfortable ripping it off.

CPB – The changeup. A circle change or split?

SR – Split. I guess it’s more of a split. It’s kind of just like three fingers on one side and then I just kind of put my pointer finger over my thumb. I don’t really know what to call it but it’s something.

CPB – The UCL injury from last year (2021) when you were with the Canadians. What was the recovery process like for that?

SR – It wasn’t as long as it could have been. Lucky to have a good staff at the PDC (Player Development Complex) helping me with my recovery. I had a great PT back home, Carrie Gersten, she was phenomenal. But I think the biggest thing was just kind of like getting comfortable getting back into it. Like when it happened, it didn’t like hurt like crazy, which was the crazy part. But it was definitely something that as a pitcher growing up, I was always kind of like, ‘Alright, I wonder if that was like, I feel a little thing, I wonder what that was.’ So then there’s sometimes where something feels just a little bit different and you’re like ‘Okay, this is serious.’ I tried to rehab it back, it didn’t work out because it was torn, but we gave it our best shot and now we’re back. The velo is coming back, the arm feels good. A lot of long days at the complex down in Florida. It’s never fun to be on the sideline. It’s one thing to be on the sideline for days after you pitch or something like that because you support your teammates but when you’re just sidelined for (so long), you physically cannot (pitch), it’s definitely different. For me I wasn’t even really going to games because I was in the rehab room. But it’s great to be back on the field and great to meet the guys.

CPB – I Just want to take it back to 2019. You were in Bluefield and it turned out to be the final year for the Bluefield Blue Jays. But how was that for a first for ball experience for you?

SR – The Appy (Appalachian) League doesn’t get its due. I had a great time there. Road trips were two-and-a-half, three hours. But being from Virginia, it was close enough for my parents to drive back and forth to games. It was fun. That was my first pro experience. I’ll always love it. Not saying the fields are anything like we got here at the Nat. It was what it was and I loved it. It was a great experience, great group of guys. You just have fun in those times. You’re kind of removed from everything. Here (in Vancouver), this is a different country and that’s like a whole new thing for me. It’s my first time being out of the country for like more than a couple days. I’d say Bluefield was great. I loved it.

CPB -In 202, you were with the Canadians but in Hillsboro. You also had a call up to New Hampshire. What was the beginning of that season like for you?

SR – It was a whirlwind because I wasn’t put on the Canadians roster until probably like the last week of spring training. But I think somebody went down with an injury or something. I was about to get an Airbnb with the guys for the season in Low-A (Dunedin). And then they were like, ‘Hey, don’t get the house yet, you’re going to go up with the (Canadians). And I was like, ‘Oh sweet! Awesome!’. I wound up living actually at Brandon Eisert‘s house because he lived not in Hillsboro but right around. Hiis family’s great. They took great care of me plus like getting to be in a house. That was a great opportunity. I let Brandon drive my minivan down to Florida and he let me drive his car in Oregon and then like a week later he gets sent up (to New Hampshire). So it was more like all of a sudden he was driving me around in his car. It was a good time, he took great care of me. But Hillsboro was cool. I always wanted to see this place. This place is crazy but it was cool to be in Hillsboro. It was an experience. And then a couple of weeks in, I get the call to New Hampshire. That was awesome. That happened on the day I graduated and my brother’s birthday so that was a funny little trifecta on the day went there. I had a couple good outings, had a couple of you know, eh, you know, It’s baseball though. I came back down, kept pitching well, but the injuries happened and I just had to unluckiness of getting one.

CPB – You get back this year in Dunedin. You were part of a no-hitter. What was that like?

SR – That was pretty cool. I’m not saying it was unexpected because you never expect to give up hits as a pitcher, but it was pretty funny because you don’t realize those things in the first two or three innings when they go by like that. But in Danedin, we were in the bullpen and we had no view of the scoreboard so we’re sitting in the bullpen and we’re just like, ‘Wow! Like three up, three down, three up, three down, three up, three down.’ So we’re not even focused on hits, like ‘We haven’t given him a run yet. Let’s keep it locked in.’ We’re just focusing on getting the next guy hot, you know? And I mean it was a Johnny Wholestaff kind of night. I think we had like four guys involved. It was fun. Like once you get out of your inning you were like, ‘Wow! Like that was alright!’ You’re just kind of waiting on edge, seeing what’s gonna happen next. It was fun. I hadn’t been a part of one in a while and it was awesome.

CPB – Final question. What’s been like for you finally getting here and pitching at Nat Bailey Stadium?

SR – I mean, this place is insane. The first day I came here, my favourite part, when people go crazy for the geese flying overhead (past the stadium), that was one of my favourite moments in my baseball career. But I think playing in general, just up here, 6,000 people going crazy. They’re smart baseball fans, they know good baseball. When they see it, they cheer at the right time. It’s a great atmosphere and it’s cool to be a part of. I’ve never had a fan base behind me like this. Like at VCU, we had a big stadium but it’s not as easy to draw crowds for college games. I mean, this is sweet. It’s an experience unlike any other.

Sam Ryan File

  • Born – September 22, 1998 in Fairfax, Virginia
  • Bats/Throws – Right/Right
  • Height/Weight – 6-foot-3, 205 pounds
  • Uniform Numbers – Wore number 33 with Virginia Commonwealth University and wore number 32 with Bluefield in 2019. Wore number 16 for Vancouver and number 27 for New Hampshire in 2021, Wore number 25 for the Florida Complex League Blue Jays and 30 for Dunedin in 2022.
  • Instagram@sam_r68
  • Twitter@sam_r33

Thanks a million again to Sam Ryan and Canadians play-by-play announcer Tyler Zickel for the latest instalment of C’s Chat.


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