By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Ryan Lavarnway made a name for himself in Great American Ball Park Friday night, but he doesn’t yet have a name plate over his locker in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse.
Everybody else does, but not Ryan Cole Lavarnway of Woodland Hills, Calif., After what he did Friday night he should have a gold-plated name plate with his name in diamond chips.
In his debut with the Reds, the 31-year-old catcher doubled home a run on the first pitch he saw. Then he hit a three-run home run. Then he hit a solo home run — two homers, a double and six RBI.
But no name plate. As Rodney Dangerfield would say, “No respect.” And Lavarnway was not in Saturday night’s lineup,
He does, though, have a walk-up song. It’s ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ by Van Morrison, in honor of Larvarnway’s wife, Jamie, a strong supporter of his long and winding baseball life.
Asked if his telephone blew up after his raucous game, he smiled and said, “Oh, yeah.” From whom? “Everybody I know in the world.”
Lavarnway is no bright-eyed and bushy-tailed rookie. He is 31 and his career stops resemble the spinning marquee of a Greyhound bus:
Lowell, Greenville, Portland, Salem, Boston, Pawtucket, Margarita, Atlanta, Gwinnett, Baltimore, Oakland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Cincinnati.
And through all that, when he played Friday night it was only his 147th major league game in eight years.
Did he ever think about quitting? After all, as a philosophy major at Yale University, he is expected to be a deep thinker.
“Give it up? Not really,” he said. “There is nothing else I’d rather do. I get to go to the field and do the thing you’ve loved to do since you were five years old. You call it your job and it is pretty special.
“This life has its difficulties, but it also has its benefits,” he added. “I have a very supportive wife, Jamie (the brown-eyed girl), who makes it doable and makes it worth it.”
Jamie used to be a food blogger, but doesn’t do it as much as she once did, but she and Ryan still check out and critique restaurants.
“That is the kind of thing we do for fun,” he said. “We travel around and go to nice restaurants. That’s what we spend our time and money on.”
How does a kid from California end up playing baseball in New Haven, Conn. at a blue blood school like Yale? It is more of a training ground for U.S. Presidents (George H.W. Bush) and baseball commissioners (A. Bartlett Giamatti) than it is for professional baseball players.
“I was recruited there to play and I wasn’t recruited many other places,” he said. “It was my best academic and athletic options.”
His athletic accomplishments were awesome. In his junior year in 2008, Lavarnway led the Ivy League in home runs (13), RBIs (42), walks (29), slugging percentage (.824), and on-base percentage (.541). He batted .398.
He was the Ivy League’s all-time leader in career home runs with 33 and won the Ivy League Player of the Week award three times in his first season’s first four weeks.
And he has a slight link to Cincinnati’s Hall of Fame catcher, Johnny Bench. After his junior year he was a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, emblematic of being named the best catcher in college.
The winner that year? Buster Posey.
Not too many baseball players study philosophy and Lavarnway said, “They told me to study what I enjoy and I took a of smattering of different classes my freshman year and that’s what I enjoyed.”
So forgive Lavarnway if his All-Star lineup contains names like Aristotle, Plato, Camus, Satre, Nietzche and Jung. Lavarnway is a Plato behind the plate.
SO DOES HISTORY REALLY repeat itself? A reminder from Dave Ross in Sidney (No, not the former Reds catcher) that however bad it is, it can always be worse.
There was a game in 1968 that was worse than the Reds blowing a 7-0 lead and losing to the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night.
It involved the same two teams and it was on June 9, 1968 in Crosley Field. The Reds ripped into Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton, knocking him out of the game in the fourth inning. The Reds led, 8-0, with two outs in the fifth, but the Cardinals scored 10 runs in the fifth after two were out and won, 10-8.
ADAM WAINWRIGHT, THE Cardinals’ Friday starter, gave up seven runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings as the Reds constructed their 7-0 lead. After the game, Wainwright maintained his sense of humor by saying, “There wouldn’t have been a comeback if I hadn’t pitched so terribly.”
YASIEL PUIG LOVES TO show off his arm, which is, indeed, extremely strong and extremely big, real guns. But there are times it gets him, and the team, in trouble.
On Friday night, during the Cardinals’ 10-run inning, the bases were loaded when Kolten Wong hit a fly ball to right field, a sacrifice fly. Puig, though, tried to throw to third base on the fly to get the runner moving from second to third.
Not only did he not get him, he missed the cutoff man and a runner moved from first to second. That enabled Paul DeJong to hit a two-run double that cut the Reds lead to 7-6.
Puig, undoubtedly, enjoys the ooohs-and-aaahs he hears from the fans when he unleashes. But the cut-off man is there to, oh, maybe cut off a throw when it shouldn’t go through.
IN HIS RELAXING PERIODS, Scooter Gennett likes to get on the clay wheel and make pottery.
“What do you want? I can make you plates and vases, whatever you want,” he said to pitcher Tanner Roark.
“So, you must like the movie ‘Ghost,’ huh?” said Roark.
“Oh, that’s funny. Like I’ve never heard that before,” said Gennett. “Every time I mention pottery-making somebody mentions ‘Ghost.’”