In this world, you never know where your inspiration is going to come from. Today, I got an enormous dose from a 20 year old man. Ryan Westmoreland, the super prospect from Portsmouth, RI and I sat down on the back patio at his family’s home and covered a lot of territory. I will write about it in the coming days. Today, though, I give you my impressions of the kid who is battling to recover from brain surgery.
I set up the interview with Ryans’ dad, Ron. I have known Ron since we were both kids growing up in Newport. I wanted to wait until I knew he was willing to do press. Ryan and his family have endured enough since the cavernous malformation was diagnosed during Spring Training. We lament this ones’ foot injury, or that ones’ arm problems. I’m not minimizing anyones injuries. I guarantee you, though, very few could make it through this hardship and still come out smiling, like Ryan Westmoreland.
I had run into the Westmoreland family (Ryan, Ron and his lovely wife Robin) on Fathers’ Day at the Brick Alley Pub in Newport. It was the first time I had seen Ryan since his ordeal began. I admit I was a bit emotional as we shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. The first thing I thought of was how good it was to see him out in public. Sure, he was moving a little carefully in the crowded restaurant, but so what. This was a kid that was battling for his life just a couple of months earlier. I knew the time wasn’t appropriate to ask to sit down for a chat, so I didn’t. After reading Dan Barbarisi’s outstanding article in “The Providence Journal” I figured that the time was as good as any. Ron set it up and I met Ryan at his house. There’s a basketball hoop at the end of the dead end street , a beautiful pool in the backyard and plenty of room for wiffleball or any ohter childhood avocation. It’s a place where Ryan honed his skills as a young man and finds comfort today.
Like any other 20 year old on summer vacation, he was sleeping in. Robin said she began prodding him about a half hour before our appointment. When I arrived, he was there and ready to go. He moved easily and steadily and spoke articulately about all that has happened to him. I am not ashamed to tell you, I was a little nervous as we began. I’ve been interviewing people for the better part of the last 25 years, and I don’t get nervous. I wanted him to be clear and he was. My nerves turned into emotion as I heard his answers to my questions. I was so impressed with this young man, I had all I could do not to hug him and tell that we are all behind him and that we love him.
I guess the point I’m trying to convey came a little later in the day as I spoke with Ron on the phone. He told the story of a most unlikely source of inspiration for the Westmoreland family. While Ryan was recuperating in the hospital in Arizona, he got a visit from the “Big Unit”. Future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson heard about Ryan and decided that he had to pay a visit. The gigantic lefthander had a simple message, according to Ron Westmoreland. “He told Ryan that he hoped all would go well and he would eventually return to baseball. He also told him to be prepared, in case that wasn’t possible. Johnson told him to share his story of inspiration, of recovering from brain surgery, whether he shared it with soldiers returning from war, or children afflicted with a malady, share it. Johnson spent about an hour with Ryan. He was unbelievable.”
Here’s what I think. Whether it’s handling the pressure of being the number one prospect in the Red Sox system or coming back from a life threatening condition, Ryan Westmoreland is a winner. He always has been and he always will be. No matter what.
The interview will be available on pawsox.com and you will also hear it on the PawSox radio Network over the next several days.