You can't help but notice the eyes. They come at you with a delightful squint, the kind of welcoming look that's non-menacing, unless you're on a pitcher's mound. That smile, creased perfectly and charming, appears familiar, too. So is the slight chin dimple.
All that's actually missing are the branded Popeye forearms, those monstrosities that once terrorized National League pitchers and seemed to have a life of their own.Ryan Garvey
laughs at the thought. It's the one thing he's been short-changed on when it comes to dad's genetics. Everything else, it seems, is there — from the No. 6 Ryan wears for Palm Desert (Calif.)
, to the compact explosive swing, to his intuitive baseball instincts, to the strong possibility Ryan will one day play Major League Baseball just like his dad, former Los Angeles Dodgers great Steve Garvey.
There's no hyper reverie to Ryan's actions on the field. No one would ever confuse Ryan for being Lenny Dykstra's son, for instance. Ryan hits, glides through the outfield, fields and throws in a smooth, controlled rhythmic flow, like his dad (in truth, Ryan runs much better than his father).
Now when crowds of Major League scouts cloister behind backstops of Palm Desert games with their stopwatches, they may talk to Steve, but they're really there to see and gravitate to Ryan. He's emerged as one of the best high school power hitters in the country, in a class with Travis Harrison, slugging a season-best nine homers, one away from tying the Palm Desert single-season school record.
Through 28 games, Ryan was hitting .381, leading the team in doubles (12), home runs (nine), runs (32) and RBIs (41). A centerfielder and occasional first baseman, Ryan has already committed to USC on a baseball scholarship, but may not make it there, projected to go anywhere from the late first round to the third round.
Aside from myriad baseball skills, the 6-foot, 190-pound senior already has a built-in advantage over most players his age – the experience and ability to cope with pressure. It came pre-ordered, with the weighty name on the back of his jersey, "G-A-R-V-E-Y."
He could cower away from it, hunch down and hide.
Instead, Ryan boldly embraces the fact the he's the son of a former Dodger great, playing in Southern California, wearing dad's famous No. 6. When he changed his number from 10 to 6 at the outset of his junior year, his mother Candace had some misgivings. Ryan didn't need that.
So when he went into a mini-slump last season, Candace suggested Ryan change the number. Ryan nixed the thought, saying, "Mom, it's not the number striking out and struggling at the plate, it's me." He kept the number.
He's been hitting ever since.
Though invariably, it always comes back to the faint chatter Ryan has heard ever since he put on a baseball uniform when the Garveys moved to Palm Desert from Utah. The whispering followed like a vapor trail of "Steve Garvey's son … that's Steve Garvey's son."
The irony is that Ryan didn't know much about his father's exploits until he was around 11. The hints would come in subtle ways. One time, when Ryan was younger, he was running around frantic looking for a glove. It was his first baseball tryout and he didn't know any better. All he knew was that he didn't have a glove. There were really plenty of gloves in the house. Game-used, too. They were stuffed in a plastic bin his father kept.
So Ryan reached in and grabbed one. As he was headed out the door …
"I remember that one," Steve said, nonchalantly. "That was the glove I wore at Dodger Stadium."
It's the way Steve and Candace wanted it. In his own time, Ryan would find out who his dad was. In his own time, Ryan would carve out who he would become.
"My dad played his career down to me, and I think it was for my own good," said Ryan, who carries a 3.5 GPA. "When was I younger, I saw pictures of him in uniform, and remember all these grownups coming up to him and asking for his autograph. I'd ask why and he'd say it was because of his baseball career. I was young, just getting into baseball and the history of the game. I really didn't know.
"Then when I got a little older, I'd click on great Dodger moments, and there's my father hitting a homer against the Cubs to left-center field, or blasting a bullet to right-center, and I'd always be like, ‘Dad, what are you doing in these pictures?' He has all of this great memorabilia and all his awards in this room. He wasn't going to tell me about it. My father is a humble man; it's the way he was raised. It's the way my parents raised me. He wasn't going to beat his chest and ever say he was great. I had to find out for myself. I started looking stuff up that he did, then I'd joke with him and say, ‘Appreciate that, thanks for telling me.'"
Though there is a caveat with carrying a big name.
"I'd be lying to you if I didn't say there isn't pressure being Steve Garvey's son," Ryan said. "I deal with it. I think I might have pressed a little too much when I was younger, trying to live up to something, but I learned that I control my own destiny, and it's in God's hands. I think that's it's OK to fail. Baseball is a game when you fail seven out of 10 times and you're still a success. It's how you learn from it. Besides, I put more pressure on myself than anyone else could. I'm trying to make it happen for me."
Steve wanted to keep things simple for Ryan, and that meant with everything. Ryan grew up around Dodger Stadium and the greats of the game. But it wasn't until Ryan was around 13 when he turned to his father one day and said, "Dad, you were pretty good, weren't you?"
"I tried to keep things simple for Ryan, on and off the field, because my philosophy has always been you can't give someone too much information too soon," Steve said. "I wanted to separate me as Ryan's father from my playing days. I'm Ryan's father first; I'm dad. And if he wanted to pursue baseball, that was fine. If he didn't, Candace and I were OK with that, too. But if he was going to pursue baseball, I didn't want the magnitude of what I did as a player to take him over. I wanted to keep things simple. Gradually, we spoke more and more about my career, and I incorporate that into what it takes to be a good player. First and foremost, there is responsibility with being a good teammate and the honor it is to wear a Major League uniform.
"I want Ryan to be better than I was, any father would. We talk about having a pro game, and that doesn't mean always going 4-for-4, it means hitting behind a runner to move him up, and making your teammates better. It means building your game. We talk about measuring his success by the success of the team, because everything is measured by winning. Ryan's senior year has been dedicated to that. That's the ultimate satisfaction. It's winning another CIF Division IV championship."
They speak about the pressures of the Garvey name, and how expectations will be placed on Ryan. Steve has turned it into a positive.
"Baseball fans like the extension of seeing sons in any sport succeed because of the experiences they had watching the fathers," Steve said. "They want the son to be able to do what the father did, especially in professional sports. The Dodger family wants to see Ryan succeed; Tommy Lasorda wants him to succeed. Candace and I have always stressed hard work, dedication and knowledge, and always about being the best player on the field. Don't try to be 'Steve Garvey's son' every time up, because I tell him he can only put expectations on himself, be Ryan Garvey."Continue reading