Curve’s Ryan a rising star in coaching

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As his Curve players celebrated their Eastern League championship on the field and later in the clubhouse Thursday night, manager Michael Ryan could be seen standing off to the side for a few seconds, a focused and proud look on his face as he watched the scene unfold and soaked it all in.

“As a manager, when you see a player, when they get it and they’re truly proud of themselves, there’s nothing like that,” Ryan said. “That’s what I was watching. The joy, the excitement, the relief, how each player was enjoying that moment, how proud of themselves they were, how proud of each other they were. That’s the thing that was hitting me.

“I just wanted them to be able to enjoy it together. Just to see the pride on their faces and what they had just got done accomplishing, it put it in perspective for me.”

Ryan has great perspective for a young manager. Only 40 years old, he is a rising star in coaching, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the big leagues in some capacity in a few short years.

Just seven years removed from his own playing career as an outfielder, Ryan is exceptional around the young players. He’s able to get the most out of them, can juggle an ever-changing roster and possesses the perfect balance required for developing minor league talent while also focusing heavily on winning every night.

Ryan wants to win, make no mistake about it. And he hates to lose.

“One hundred percent,” he said. “Everything that I do, I want to win. That’s just the way I was raised, the way I was brought up. To this day, if we’re playing cards, I want to kick your butt. That’s why I come to the park every day. I want to win and get our players better and get them to the major leagues and they know how to win.”

Ryan has now won back-to-back league titles — also doing so last year at high-A Bradenton — and while having good players is always the key to that, it helps that the players know how badly the manager wants it, as well.

“Everything Mikey does has a purpose,” shortstop Cole Tucker said. “He reads the clubhouse and communicates with us every day. He leads us with the purpose of winning and getting better. I love playing for him, and he’s helped me and this club tremendously. The guy just knows how to win.”

The Pirates have a good, young manager at Triple-A in 43-year-old Andy Barkett, who led Indianapolis to the playoffs this year. Unless he lands some kind of big league job himself, Barkett could wind up staying at Indy for a few more years.

That means Ryan could be in line to remain the Curve’s manager for a few years. He wants to get to the big leagues, of course, but the Indiana, Pa., native who now lives in Pittsburgh is very happy where he’s at.

Ryan said the Pirates haven’t told him what they think of him as a manager or what their plan is for him next year.

“Perfect world, I would love to come back to Altoona,” Ryan said. “If I was told that I would never have any chance to go to the major leagues, I would do this for 25 years.

“Just fell in love with the place. I love the organization. (Curve general manager) Derek Martin and his staff are just unbelievable. It was just so comfortable. I think that was the reason why I felt good coming to the park every day was I was so comfortable.”

Former Curve managers have had a lot of success getting to the big leagues as coaches — Dale Sveum (manager and coach), Tony Beasley, Tim Leiper, Tom Prince, Joey Cora — and Ryan figures to join that group someday.

“Of course you want to be a major league manager,” he said, “but there’s only 30 of them, so what are the chances? Probably slim. But I think if you keep winning, you might open some eyes and might get that one interview, and maybe that one interview leads to five and maybe five interviews leads to that one job.”

Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM.

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