ALTOONA, PA – When a major leaguer has to make a rehab start in the minors, most of them will be in and out of town before you can even blink. It’s typical practice for a guy to show up on game day, do his thing, then hurry up and skip town without engaging much with the team or players.
Luckily for the Curve, Ryan Vogelsong is not like most rehabilitating major leaguers.
When Vogelsong was drafted in 1998 by the San Francisco Giants, the majority of the Curve clubhouse were still in kindergarten or just entering grade school. His battery mate on Friday night in Altoona, Reese McGuire, had just turned three years old. The knowledge and experience that Vogelsong could provide to these young professional baseball players would be vast.
Not only did he show up the day before his start to workout and spend the day with his newest teammates, he went through all of the game day meetings and workouts with his fellow Double-A pitchers.
“That’s not normal,” Altoona Pitch Coach Justin Meccage said about Vogelsong showing up the day before to be with the team. “He told me that he actually wanted to do it. He’s an unbelievable person.”
More than the steak and lobster dinner he provided the team with in Erie (which players were more than appreciative of), Vogelsong really did everything he could to make an impact on these Double-A players while he was able to.
“He was awesome with our guys,” Meccage said. “In our pitchers’ meeting yesterday, he made an impact on our guys immediately.”
Players sat with Vogelsong for about 25 minutes, simply asking any and all questions they had for him — how to attack, how to prepare, how to learn from failures, and more.
“He wanted to pass on what has made him successful over the years, as well as what he’s failed at that he wish he would have known,” Meccage said. “The way he handled himself — it wasn’t just impactful to the players, it was impactful for me, too.”
Curve starting pitcher Cody Dickson echoed the sentiment, saying that Vogelsong is “one of the nicest and most personal guys that I’ve met.”
“Anyone that has been playing that long in the big leagues and has had that much success at the same time, you can learn from,” Dickson said. “He’s battled his way and has had his ups and downs. Being that he’s 38, he just has so much wisdom that it’s unbelievable.”
Vogelsong was upfront and honest with the players in the clubhouse, allowing them to approach him to ask any questions or run any thoughts past him about his baseball experiences.
“He talked a lot about attacking hitters and trying to get guys out,” Curve reliever Brett McKinney told me. “He said that if he could go back and talk to his younger self, he would say, ‘you don’t have to strike everybody out. You can trust the guys behind you to make the play.’ That was something that carried over to a lot of us. It was a good piece of advice.”
Multiple players in the Curve clubhouse talked about Vogelsong assuring them of how close they were to realizing their dreams of making the big leagues and to keep working as hard as they possibly can to get there. His message was loud and clear, and it was something that many players will not soon forget.
“He’s an unbelievable competitor,” Dickson said. “It was just awesome for us to be able to take it all in and watch him compete. I wish we could have had him around for longer, but I’m glad he’s back and on his way to Pittsburgh.”
While most rehab starters will come in the day he pitches then leave immediately, he showed up early, hung around, and engaged himself with the team.
Not only before the game, Vogelsong stayed until the end of both games that he pitched to high five and congratulate his teammates, something that almost never happens for a major league rehab starter. Most times, media will meet with major leaguers on rehab immediately after they exit the game so they can shower, pack up, and leave before the game is over. Contrarily, Vogelsong was in the dugout until the final out was made on Friday in Altoona.
Ultimately, he was setting an example for his younger brethren.
“He cheered for our guys; he competed with our guys,” Meccage said. “He stuck around for the end which most guys wouldn’t do. He prepared for this game like he was in the big leagues. He provided a great role model for us, and I have a ton of respect for that guy.”
I think Ryan Vogelsong gained himself a few new fans in Altoona on his way back to the big leagues.
Vogelsong and Newman Discuss Eye Injuries
On a side note, I asked Vogelsong if he was able to meet Kevin Newman, as they both went through facial fracture injuries around the same time. Coincidentally, Newman was at the same doctor as Vogelsong just days after their respective injuries occurred. Vogelsong’s injury happened on May 23rd; Newman’s on May 26th.
“Just a couple of days after I got hit, I was in the eye doctor’s office, and he told me that Kevin was downstairs getting a CT scan because he had been hit,” Vogelsong said. “I knew that it happened, and it was coincidental that he was here when I came here. I talked to him about it, and obviously he hasn’t had ill-effects from it. He’s swinging the bat well, and I’m really glad that he’s OK.”