Sports

From Undrafted to Waiting

Ryan Fitgerald was born in Hinsdale, Illinois in 1994. The 6’0, 185lbs utility player was undrafted out of Creighton. Undrafted, not selected for a team through a professional league’s draft.

Ryan Fitzgerald in the field
Photo Curtesy of Ryan Fitzgerald

When we talked, I first asked him what his favorite moment of the 2021 season was. “Tanner Nishioka’s last game.” This event was on August 29th, when Nishioka hit two home runs. He told the team that he was going to be retiring after the game, Nishioka said, “I’m gonna hit a home run. And then I’m gonna retire.” Fitzgerald said, “like Alright, cool.” He goes on to say that Nishioka goes out there, he hits the farthest home run that anyone had hit at Hadlock field that year, he thinks it went like 400 something feet. It was insane, like over the batter’s eye. The entire team was going crazy. Then he comes, he’s like, I got one more. Alright, so next at bat goes up there. Another home run, then he retired after the game. So that’s probably the coolest moment to 2021. Definitely a top moment of his career just being there and seen is cool.

Fitzgerald was promoted to Worchester which is “Triple A”, so I asked what it was like to be promoted. He answered that it was a cool moment and that his parents and siblings were in town, so they got to come up with him. Fitzgerald also said how it was kind of cool because Chris Sale was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in Portland. Then Sale went to Worcester for a couple starts. So, he thinks he kind of followed him through his rehab stint in the minors. 

 Asked who he idealized growing up, Fitgerald named Derek Jeter from the Yankees. As a Red Sox prospect he knows that h e probably shouldn’t say that. Everyone loved Derek Jeter. He realized that Jeter wasn’t actually that great a defender but definitely is one of the best all time hitters, and obviously, player overall. He started to observe Brandon Crawford of The Giants to figure out how he was so good He still idolizes Brandon Crawford to this day. He’s obviously incredible with the glove. He notes that  Crawford’s bat has come a long way. He is  probably his favorite player right now.

I asked him, Obviously, we know that your draft didn’t end the way you wanted but you got your contract purchased from the American Association. What was that process like?

Ryan Fitzgerald in the field
Photo Curtesy of Ryan Fitzgerald

He mentions that it is very interesting. Obviously, when you don’t get drafted, you kind of don’t know what to do with your life.  He tried out for a lot of different indie ball teams, and got rejected by all of them, except for Gary Railcats. They had him come out and he went to one of their batting practices in 2016. Then he didn’t hear anything from the team for a couple months. In November of 2016, after their season had ended, The Railcats manager called and said, “Hey, we want to sign you for next year” So he ended up doing that. Their season doesn’t start until May, so he went there. There’s two or three weeks of spring training that they have, right before the season starts.He ended up going there for the spring training and did really well. He was actually called in the manager’s office and the manager said,  “Well, you made the team.” Fitzgerald was thinking in his head “yeah, of course I made the team. I’m your best player”. The manager replies “Yeah, we were fully intending on cutting you. We didn’t think you were gonna be that good. Hearing that pissed Fitzgerald off.  2018 rolled around and he was there, and  two days into spring training there they ended up signing him. Then the Red Sox purchased his contract two days into spring training with the Railcats.  He was in the Red Sox  spring training facility two days later.

So I asked him, “with Spring Training hopefully right around the corner I know you guys aren’t getting affected by the lockout. What are you looking forward to most this upcoming season? 

Card of Ryan Fitzgerald with autograph Photo taken by author

He told me that he was kind of looking forward to being in the big league but obviously, they might not have a big-league camp. He is looking forward to getting back with the guys. He plays the game for his teammates and for him to win. He mentions now he knows it’s not always an emphasis in the minor leagues. This is kind of a sore subject with him and It’s why he always says, “I love playing independent ball because it is do or die every night. And if you didn’t play well, you were gone. That’s not the case in the minor leagues so it’s kind of a different dynamic for sure. When you have a good group of guys that genuinely want to win and do well and obviously make it to the show, it’s always a fun season. There’s always ups and downs in a season, but he knows that got a great group of guys. It’s usually going to be a good year and it’s always a fun time.

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