FORT MYERS, FLA. – Terry Ryan’s office at Hammond Stadium has remained untouched except for the large printout of every team’s roster lining one of the walls being kept up to date. Assistant General Manager Ron Antony, who has helped handle daily operations during Ryan’s absence, refused to work out of the room.
Other Twins employees said spring training has not been the same without Ryan.
Now, for a couple days, it will feel like old times.
Ryan, still recovering from surgery in February to remove squamous cell carcinoma from the left side of his neck, flew down from the Twin Cities on owner Jim Pohlad’s private jet Friday following a radiation treatment in the morning. He will meet with players, check out the $48.5 million renovation project and watch the Twins-Yankees game Saturday before returning to the Twin Cities. Ryan has five more weeks of treatments but hopes at the end he will be declared cancer-free.
“We decided it was probably a good thing and important that I come down here and make sure everyone knew that I was still engaged,” Ryan said. “I’m not sure what the right decision was. I have to go back because I’m under radiation five days a week, Monday through Friday, so I can’t stay long. As much as I would like to stay down here for at least a week, I can’t.”
Like old times
Ryan looked a tad thinner — he said he lost 14 pounds but has gained about half of it back — but was characteristically quick-witted as he met with reporters in his office, a frequent occurrence during previous spring trainings.
Ryan worked out of his office at Target Field in recent weeks. The radiation treatments, he said, last about 15 minutes each morning. Then it’s off to Target Field to check in with Antony and complete other tasks. He usually heads to his home in Eagan around midafternoon, then tunes into the MLB Network to keep up with what’s going on in the league.
“It’s very convenient to keep an eye on the industry, there’s no doubt about that,” he said, “but I don’t have much interest in doing it that way.”
Ryan was asked several baseball-related questions:
• On the Twins’ struggling offense: “I don’t get too overly concerned about it, if it has been great or if it has been poor. It’s spring training.”
• On Miguel Sano’s torn elbow ligament, which ended his 2014 season before it began: “I feel horrible for the kid. It’s just a bad break for all of us. But he is young and he’s strong and he’ll be good and he will be bouncing back. Unfortunately it happened to one of our position players and one of our best.”
• On Antony calling out some players Wednesday for not stepping up and winning jobs in camp: “When you come through spring training and you’re hoping and wishing and envisioning what’s going to happen and sometimes it doesn’t, it gets a little frustrating, not only for the people who are watching but the people who are playing. That is not unusual in spring training. ... [But] there have been a number of examples over the years where people have had tremendous springs and it didn’t happen during the season, and vice versa.”
Back in action
There’s no chance Ryan will be in Chicago for Opening Day on March 31. He’ll be present at all home games through the end of April, when he hopes to get a clean bill of health.
Scouts and executives from across the league have sent him messages and spoken with him by phone this month once he was able to talk.
“I’m thankful for all the attention and the help and care and interest, the hundreds and hundreds of well wishes,” Ryan said “It’s unbelievable the support I’ve gotten. My wife, of course, has had to do a lot of this stuff for rehab because I was on that feeding tube for quite a while. But I’m feeling pretty damn good right now.”
After five more weeks of radiation treatments, he will be checked out by specialists.
“I’m not sure if this is a three-year deal until you can say you are out of it,” Ryan said. “That’s what anyone that’s had something like this is looking for, going to the doctor and him saying you are cancer-free. That will be the day that I’m looking at.”
Ryan sat in a corner of his office as Antony, Mike Herman (director of team travel), Dustin Morse (director of baseball communications) and Mitch Hestad (baseball communications manager) looked on. Longtime employee Pat Creem stopped in to drop off a bag of cookies.
“I think it’s a relief and good for everybody to see him,” Antony said. “Just to catch up with him and talk to him. We went over a few things about the team, but we also talked about how he’s doing. ”
Ryan finished with reporters and headed down to the clubhouse, where manager Ron Gardenhire was waiting to chat with him.
That left Antony to go over the day following the Twins’ 9-1 loss to the New York Mets, but Ryan’s appearance became the most important development, not righthander Vance Worley being sent to Class AAA Rochester.
As Ryan walked out, Antony said: “How do you follow that up?”