Power boasts talent, desire
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- During his 15 years as a professional baseball player, Michael Ryan has worked for a lot of bosses.
He's seen what works when leading ballplayers. He's seen what doesn't.
So as he gets ready for his managerial debut tonight, when his West Virginia Power hosts the Asheville Tourists at 7:05 p.m. at Appalachian Power Park, Ryan has mapped out what he feels makes an effective leader of men.
"I know what managers did to me when I wasn't doing well and what managers did to me when I was doing well, so I'll try to use that to my advantage," he said. "I know I was the type of player that didn't like to get screamed at in front of my teammates. I'll never do that to these guys.
"I want to be a player's manager," Ryan added, "one that they'll run through a wall for."
The low Class A Power has a young roster - only two players were born before 1990 - but it's a talented one. Five players are among Baseball America's top 20 prospects of the Power's parent club, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Two of them, outfielder Josh Bell and right-handed pitcher Clay Holmes, are in the top 10. Bell is rated sixth and Holmes is rated 10th, according to Baseball America.
The Power finished 61-79 in the South Atlantic League last season under former manager Rick Sofield, but came along as the year progressed. West Virginia finished the first half in last place in the league's Northern Division, 23 games back of leader Greensboro.
The Power rallied in the second half, tying Hickory for second place, just three games back of Hagerstown. Sofield moved to the Pirates coaching staff this year, allowing Ryan his first shot at running a club.
Ryan said the Power's talent is matched by its desire to improve. That self-motivation should get the team off on the right foot, he added.
"The one thing I love so far about these guys is their work ethic," Ryan said. "They will outwork any team they play against, and that's something that you can't teach. So that makes my job easy, the way they play so hard. They're going to be a fun team to watch."
Ryan wants the players to enjoy their stay in Charleston, too. He played with 16 teams through the major and minor leagues, and played for some managers who never took a personal interest in their players. That led to some uncomfortable locker rooms. Ryan wants to model his style after Los Angeles Angels Manager Mike Scioscia.
Ryan spent 22 games with the Angels in his final majors stint in 2010, and he loved how Scioscia interacted with the team.
"He'd ask you how you were, how your family was," Ryan said. "He really cared about every individual on the team and for that, guys would go through a wall for that guy."
Bell said that's already started to shine through. He loves the stories Ryan tells. He knows that Ryan knows what it's like play low-A ball and beyond. And he can see how much Ryan cares about the guys on the roster.
"He's always a guy who asks how you're doing," Bell said. "'Are you sure you're OK? Are you sure your legs are OK?'
"It makes you stop and think," Bell continued. "When he asks you, 'Is your arm OK?' and you're like, 'Yeah, yeah, of course,' and he's like, 'Is your arm really OK?' You can tell he's been through it. Some days your arm's going to be lagging. Some days your legs are going to feel you just got hit by a train the previous day. It's awesome that he cares."
Ryan wants to stay patient and positive with the Power as the season begins, to not let too much negativity creep in and allow this young roster to develop into solid pros. Holmes, a 6-foot-5 hurler whose fastball reaches the mid-90s, said everyone in the locker room is ready to see what they can do this season.
"All that practice and preparation through the offseason and spring training, all that's kind of forwarded to this first week," he said. "There's a lot of excitement and energy. Everybody's ready to get kicked off and hopefully get a good season started."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.