Ryan makes history
Michael Ryan became the winningest manager in Curve history Sunday night, and he did so in a game that epitomizes what he’s always been about in his three years with the club.
“If you think about tonight’s game, it’s a lot of not only how my career was as a player, but as a manager, as well,” Ryan said. “I try to instill to play the game the right way and to never give up, just fight through anything.”
The Curve fought back from a three-run sixth-inning deficit against one of the league’s best teams, fought through more adversity down the stretch and gave Ryan the record with a 5-4 victory over Bowie before 5,821 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Now with 214 wins, Ryan surpassed the previous Curve manager record of 213 shared by Dale Sveum (2001-03) and Tim Leiper (2006-08).
To commemorate the record, Curve pitching coach Joel Hanrahan presented Ryan with a wrestling-style championship belt with the words “214 wins” in the clubhouse after the game.
“It’s a lot of different emotions,” Ryan said of setting the record. “We’ve had great players here the last three years, and that helps, obviously. Most of it’s because of them. I’m just proud of being here with this great front office, great community, great fans.
“Just to be able to think about all the players that have been here throughout the three years, that’s what makes it special. I’m not big on attention and the individual awards. It just goes beside my name. It’s all about the players.”
It may be all about the players to him, but there’s also clear statistical evidence that Ryan is the best manager in Curve history.
He not only has won the most games, but also is one of only two skippers to lead Altoona to an Eastern League championship. Ryan accomplished that feat in 2017 and also reached the playoffs last season. The franchise’s other EL title came in 2010 with Matt Walbeck at the helm, but he was infamously fired by the Pirates a couple of weeks after that.
How good of a manager is Ryan?
“Oh man, he’s good,” said Curve hitting coach Jon Nunnally, a former big league player and coach.
“He’s one of those guys I can say is very well prepared. In game situations, he’s locked in and knows exactly what he wants to do. He’s one of those guys, too, that will ask questions and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this, what do you think about that?’ And then everybody weighs out the situation.”
The Curve have had great success with managers going on to bigger and better things throughout the franchise’s history. Sveum went on to manage in the majors with the Brewers and Cubs. Leiper, Tony Beasley, Tom Prince and Joey Cora are all current coaches in the big leagues.
Nunnally didn’t hesitate when asked if Ryan can manage in the majors someday.
“Oh, for sure. For sure,” Nunnally said. “That’s one thing I will 100 percent say, this guy has what it takes to manage in the big leagues.”
Ryan’s personal story is intriguing, too, as he’s a native of nearby Indiana, Pa. He’s not the winningest manager of some minor league team in California or Texas, but one that’s a mere 60 miles away from his hometown.
“I’m just fortunate, to be honest with you,” Ryan said. “To be in this organization being from Indiana, Pa., and living right outside of Pittsburgh now, I’m a Pittsburgh guy, I bleed black and gold. I’m the luckiest guy in minor league baseball to be able to manage here and see my family every day.”
Key player: 3B Brett Pope went 2-for-4 with two runs and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth after a leadoff double for the Curve.
Key play: The Curve erased a 3-0 deficit with four runs in the sixth, pulling even on a two-run double by SS Oneil Cruz and taking the lead on an RBI single by DH Logan Hill.
Key stat: Michael Ryan set the Curve record with his 214th win as manager.
How they scored
Top 4th: Mullins solo homer (0-1); Feliz walked, scored on Valentin fielder’s choice (0-2); McKenna single scored Valentin (0-3).
Bottom 6th: Valerio singled, scored on Oliva sacrifice fly (1-3); Pope singled, Sharpe reached on catcher’s interference, both scored on Cruz double (3-3); Hill single scored Cruz (4-3).
Top 8th: Mullins singled, scored on Feliz double (4-4).
Bottom 8th: Pope doubled, scored on Flaa error (5-4).