A lot of guys come through the clubhouse at McCoy Stadium. Some are special. You can tell that from Day 1. They possess the talent and work ethic necessary to make it all the way to the top. Talent alone usually won’t do it. If a guy works hard, injury is really the only thing that stands in his way. Ryan Kalish has endured more than his fair share of injuries over the last year or so. Shoulder and neck issues have sidelined the gifted outfielder for more than an entire season. Before the ills, he was ticketed for stardom, and now that they are hopefully behind him, he is on his way once again. Kalish is still just 24 years old. Ryan has worked his way up the system and after rehabbing in the lower minors, he made his PawSox debut on Tuesday night. I had the opportunity to speak to him before the game and he was thrilled to be back. “I’m happy. I’m happy to sit here with you. I’m happy. It’s just great to play ball again. It’s been a long time. I’m happy to be back with my friends.”
Kalish got off to a fast start. He belted a two run homer in his first at bat, then added an RBI single and two walks. He had one defensive oppportunity in centerfield and handled it with ease. He didn’t feel he had any limitations. “The shoulder sometimes kind of tightens up. There’s still some scar tissue in the neck that you feel every now and then. Once you get out there between the lines, it’s time to play. It’s time to be an athlete again. Get out there, have fun, play as hard as you can and help the guys win. Right now,there are no limitations. At the plate, I actually feel pretty comfortable. In the outfield, I’m still trying to get my feet underneath me, as far as what I can do throwing. I need to trust myself when diving for a ball. It’s a process and that’s what I’m working towards. I’m trying to get back to being the same athlete and player that I used to be.”
His mature attitude is another reason Kalish will succeed. When the Sox picked up Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney, he understood the reason. Kalish said he didn’t own the rights to right field at Fenway Park. He is, however, human and has the same emotions that we all do. “I’ll be really honest, I’m past frustration. I’m past any type of frustration that a man could have. It was frustrating enough with my injuries and my own problems. I can’t worry about other guys and what they’re doing. I’m happy for all the guys that have gotten chances. Lars, Nava, Lin. All the guys that have gone up there are my friends and I’m just happy to see them do well. Life is too short to be bitter. It is what it is. I’ve been dealt these cards and it’s my job to show some character and courage and get my mind right so I can come back and do my thing. Nothing’s guaranteed. If I come back and play well enough, I’ll have a chance somewhere. That’s all I’m looking for. An opportunity.”
Lars Anderson and Kalish are good friends. Earlier this season, when I asked Lars for an update on Kalish, I expected a physical update, but he surprised me with an emotional and mental checkup about his friend. He intimated that the saga had made Kalish a more mature and patient person. Kalish agreed. “I’ve had so much time off from baseball, that I’ve had a lot of time to work on myself. Lars is totally right. I wasn’t totally OK in Spring Training. I was upset with my situation and I wanted to be out there. It was hard, but those are the times that you can work on yourself as a person. Respect the process, respect the people around me. Really embrace life. Regardless of how I got hurt, I’ve got a good life. I’ve got my health. I’ve got friends and family. A lot of people love me and I love them back. Life is giving me a different perspective. Now I get to go out there and play every night. If I struggle, I might get frustrated. That’s just natural. I think the turn around, getting over the humps, will be quicker. I’m just happy being back out there. I think that’ll go a long way in helping with my recovery and making me a better player. You’re never going to be the same person you were. In 2010 and 2009, I was who I was then, and this is a whole new time for me. There’s no sense in looking back. it’s all about here and now.”
With an attitude like that and his tools and work ethic, how can you bet against Ryan Kalish?