Ballpark is Ryan's chosen spot

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 16, 2010 - 10:14 AM

Despite his popularity in Minnesota as the man who transformed a dying franchise, Terry Ryan these days works in the shadows of men who rose to authority under his tutelage..

Terry Ryan

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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FORT MYERS, FLA. - Terry Ryan has become the ghost in the Twins' machine, a quiet but omnipresent figure who influences the team's biggest decisions and analyzes their most obscure prospects.

Despite his popularity in Minnesota as the man who transformed a dying franchise, Ryan these days works in the shadows of men who rose to authority under his tutelage. While he left the general manager position to spend more time at home and shed some of his least favorite aspects of public life, he remains a strong voice and maniacal worker whose presence is felt every day in the organization.

"He's a great asset to the Twins organization, and especially me," said Twins General Manager Bill Smith, Ryan's successor and former assistant. "Down here, I talk to him hourly. He's in the next room. During the season, we swap e-mails, we call each other.

"We've got a great relationship, and he's one of the few people who could step sideways from this position and have it be 100 percent positive."

Ryan's title is senior advisor to the general manager. On the team's masthead in its media guide, his is the 29th name listed. A few pages away, you can read the biographies of 14 team executives, but not Ryan's.

He doesn't like attention, and yet it's hard to spend a day at Twins camp without hearing his name.

One day last week, a visitor to Hammond Stadium at 6:30 a.m. found all of the doors to the press box, front office suites and clubhouse locked. The visitor saw one light shining in the building -- in Ryan's office, where he was reading scouting reports.

About 10 hours later, Twins third base prospect Danny Valencia, standing in the clubhouse after hitting a game-winning home run, was asked about his reputation as an emotional player.

"The great Terry Ryan gave me some advice at TwinsFest," Valencia said. "He told me to go down to spring training, work hard, keep your mouth shut and play hard.

"When I came up my first year, Terry was always there to keep me in check, to keep me in line. He was a guy I could go to, and he'd shoot me pretty straight."

Shortstop prospect Trevor Plouffe noticed a dramatic change in Ryan's demeanor after he left the GM position.

"It's funny, the first time I saw him after he stepped down, he had the biggest smile on his face," Plouffe said. "I told him, 'I've never seen [you] smile this much, ever.' You could tell whatever pressure he had on him before was gone. Now he's a totally different person.

"I respect him both ways. He's one of the guys you have to respect because he won't sugarcoat anything. You can tell he's still very involved, but the pressure isn't there anymore."

The first time I saw Ryan in public after he resigned as general manager, he was with his wife, Karilyn, at the Twins' Diamond Awards, and he was grinning as Karilyn talked about Terry taking time to walk the dogs and even, on occasion, catch "Oprah."

No one in the Twins organization talks about Ryan watching "Oprah." He's known as the first employee to arrive at Hammond Stadium and often the first scout to arrive at spring training games.

"He's the first one in here every day," Smith said. "I quit trying to beat him. I've always prided myself on being one of the early arrivers, and I came here one day and he was here, so the next day I came 15 minutes earlier and he was here, and the next day I came 20 minutes earlier and not only was he here, he was on his second cup of coffee.

"I quit trying to beat him."

Ryan never liked dealing with administrative work, agents or media demands. He's returned to his roots.

"For the 24-plus years that I've known him, he's always loved scouting," Smith said. "He loves talking about it, teaching it and doing it.

"He'll drive up north to scout a spring training game, then he'll find a high school game at 7 o'clock on the way back. I might say, 'That's not exactly on the way,' and he'll say, 'No, but it's a good game.' He loves being in a ballpark."

Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

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