Here is the conclusion of my conversation with Ryan Westmoreland. The audio is available on pawsox.com, under multimedia on the homepage. Click video highlights. (This is an audio only interview)
While you were in Arizona getting set for the fight of your life, the Portsmouth basketball team paid tribute to you during the final timeout of their state championship victory. What did that mean to you?
It was amazing. I didn’t know it was going on. It was a day or two before surgery and Coach Lunnie sent me a text. It kind of felt like everything was focused in Arizona. Not too many people knew about it yet, but to have the people of Rhode Island back home thinking about me was really special.
The Red Sox have gone out of their way, it seems, to make things as easy for your family as possible. Tell me about your relationship with them.
When it first started, it was just another injury with the trainers. Once i got the results from the MRI, the whole organization switched from employer to family. It was amazing. I can’t say enough about the organization. From plane flights to hotels. Everything you could imagine. They took care of it all. They are a first class organization. It was special. They had “my back”. It was just like I was a part of their family.
Obviously, the people of R.I. love you and the Red Sox care a great deal about you. Who did you hear from that may have surprised you?
I got letters in Boston and Arizona flying in. Mail from people who we had no idea where they were from. Some unsigned, telling me stories of hope and inspiration. Kids and their parents who had cavernous malformations just like me. All of them were positive, all living normal lives. To read that kind of thing was special and inspiring. At the time I was down on myself, not knowing what was going to happen. To read those stories gave me a lot of motivation to keep going.
You are working hard, rehabbing every day. What do you consider a victory today?
Every day in therapy, I like to finish with a positive attitude. I’ll look back a week or two to see if I could’ve done then, what I did today. Most of the time the answer is ‘no’ and I feel really great when I do something I couldn’t do a couple of weeks before that. That’s kept me going and as long as I keep an even head with therapy, don’t get too up or down on myself, when I ask myself that question, it’s a good feeling.
Obviously, you’re a very gifted athlete. Is it strange for you to take gratification in throwing a ball or running the bases?
It’s different, that’s for sure. It came naturally before and now it takes a lot of effort. I’ve come to terms with what’s happened and I understand that it’s not going to come naturally right now. I know that I have to work through it and that’s what I’m going to do.
We talked about the pressure of being a top prospect. Is there a different type of pressure as people are now banking on you making a miraculous comeback?
We’re definitely hoping it’s going to be a pretty good story, starting as a top prospect and going through this whiole situation. I’m really motivated to get back on the field. Not necessarily to be the top prospect again, but to get back out on the field. Even if I’m not the top prospect, I’ll be able to inspire some kids with what I’ve gone through. Returning to become a top prospect would be great, but getting back on the field is the only goal.
You were at Fenway Park when your friend Daniel Nava had a “goosebump” moment, making his Major League debut, hitting a Grand Slam in his first ML at bat. What was that like and what’s it like watching guys like Daniel and Ryan Kalish play while you’re out?
Ever since I signed and first saw Nava, I knew he’d get to the Big Leagues. He’s got an unbelievable way of going about his business. On the field, he’s a great player. Kalish is the same way. I can’t imagine it will be too long before Kalish is up there. Seeing those guys get up there is special because those are the guys I played with. To see that they’re moving up motivates every minor league player, it inspires us all. Especially Nava. I’ve always looked up to him. To see him doing what he’s doing, is very special.
I’m sure I know the answer. It’s always the same, no matter who you ask. What do you miss most while you’re out?
You really miss just hanging out with the guys in the clubhouse. The clubhouse is a place where not too many people get to go. It’s a place where the team just bonds and has a good time. You hang out there before the game and once you get on the field, you’re all just one unit. You play together. But the clubhouse, yeah, that’s what I miss most. It’s really important.
What goals do you have right now? When do you expect to back on the playing field?
I don’t have a specific time frame. I’m just trying to get through this rehab as soon as I can without skipping any parts. I’m throwing and running and stuff. I’m working on smoothing things out. Working on my coordination and balance. I have no timetable, but after three months I am running and throwing. I hope that within a year or so, I’ll be smooth with everything and we’ll go from there.
I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect, talking to you today. I want the people to know, you look good. You look like you’re on the road. How comfortable are you being out in public and what message do you have for all those who care so much?
I’m comfortable. I like to do all the things that any college-age kid likes to do. Go out with my friends, hang out by the pool. I’ve come to terms with what I’ve gone through. If people look at me when I’m out, they can think what they want to think, thats fine. I know what I went through and the people who are close to me, know what I went through. I’m definitely comfortable. As far as any message- I want to thank everyone for the unbelievable support I’ve gotten through this whole thing. Texts, letters etc. from people I did and didn’t know. I want to thank the Red Sox for all they’ve done. My teammates too, I realize I have a lot of true friends in the organization. Guys who have kept on me and stayed in touch and kept track of what’s going on. The support has just been amazing.
(I would like to thank Ryan and his mother Robin and father Ron for allowing me access to their home and a look inside their lives.)