New hire has ties to area

By Cory Giger

Michael Ryan gets to come back home and manage the top minor league team in the region, which is a pretty cool situation.

Ryan, an Indiana native who played parts of five seasons in the major leagues, will be the Curve’s manager in 2017. He’s getting a promotion from high-A Bradenton, where he led the franchise to its first Florida State League title this summer, and is already very familiar with the Curve, having worked for the team as a coach in 2012.

“Just some tremendous excitement,” Ryan said of his new job. “First of all, honored to be able to lead the Altoona Curve this year. For it to be so close to home is very special.

“I’ll get to spend more time with my wife, my two young boys. So to be able to be in Altoona is just something I’ve been shooting for since I’ve been in the organization with the Pirates.”

Ryan and his family now live in Monroeville, and his wife is a trauma nurse at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. He’ll be staying in Altoona during the season but actually will be able to commute to work from home on occasion, which is very rare in the minor leagues.

Ryan, now 39, was a fifth-round draft pick of the Twins in 1996, and his playing career ran from 1996-2010. He made it to the majors with the Twins (2002-05) and Angels (210). Primarily an outfielder, he hit .258 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 149 big league games.

Ryan had a stellar showing in the majors in 2003 with the Twins, hitting .393 with five homers, 13 RBIs and a 1.195 OPS in 27 games.

“I was playing in some big-time games, middle of September every day and was able to impact that club because I was hot at the right time,” Ryan said.

Ryan spent the 2012 season with the Curve on manager P.J. Forbes’ staff, coaching first base and the outfield. He also did a lot of the grunt work that people don’t always see in the minors.

“I did the team itineraries, called the hotels to get the rooms ready when we would go on the road trips,” he said. “I’m glad I don’t have to do that this year.”

Ryan wound up gaining a lot of experience with the Curve that season.

“P.J. had some back issues middle part of the season, so I was able to coach some third base,” he said. “I was able to see what he did on an everyday basis, able to learn some things from him. I’m so thankful that I was there for that year, just to see the travel throughout the league and to get accustomed to the stadiums and what other organizations do in the league.”

Ryan began his managerial career the following year in low-A at West Virginia, spending two seasons there before managing at Bradenton the past two years.

He takes pride in building strong personal relationships with his players, which he says will help them play better in return.

“The main thing that I’ve learned is the better relationships you have with the players, the more that they’ll do for you,” Ryan said. “I’ve tried to use some examples when I was a player and guys that I played for as far as managers, what they did for me to make me get the best out of myself. The No. 1 thing was to develop a relationship with me.

“If I knew that a manager truly cared about me not only as a player but also as a person, I would pretty much do anything for that manager. I would run through a wall for him. I take pride in that. I try to build relationships with our guys. I love my players. I ry to get to know everything about them — what they like, what they dislike. I think you can get the most out of them whenever you do that.”

Ryan is different than any manager the Curve have ever had in that he’s already been part of the team and has local roots. He knows exactly what to expect, then, from his new job.

“It’s an absolutely beautiful stadium,” Ryan said. “I love Altoona, the city, the people that are there. I’m excited for fans from around the area, from Indiana and maybe the Pittsburgh area, especially Johnstown a couple friends, they’ll come out to support us.

“Hopefully, hometown guy coming in, maybe attendance will rise a little bit and we’ll be able to put a pretty good product where people will want to come and see us play.”