Terry Ryan would have been an outstanding reporter. He has an eye trained for behavior out of the norm, and a curiosity to find out why.
“A hitter would come to the plate with a new piece of equipment, maybe an arm guard,” Dustin Morse said. “Terry would say, ‘What do you suppose this is all about?’ He didn’t miss a thing.”
Mike Herman laughed and said: “When I was in media relations, in spring training, I would get a call from Terry and he’d say, ‘Who is that photographer wandering around Field 6 like he owns the place?’
“And I’d say, ‘I’ll check, Terry,’ and run over and find out if the photographer belonged there.”
Morse came to the Twins in 2006 to work as Herman’s assistant in media relations. In the middle of 2012, Herman was put in charge of team travel and Morse of media relations.
Ryan was back as general manager that season, after an earlier stint as GM from 1994-2007, and he was their boss. More than that, he was the source of almost-daily life lessons and humor — particularly when Terry was on a Twins road trip and the day would start with breakfast.
“It usually would be 8, and Terry already would have his morning run in,” Herman said. “We would talk about last night’s game. If we had lost, Terry would point to a half-dozen things and say, ‘I don’t know how we didn’t win that game.’ ”
Herman went to work as an intern for the Twins in 1999 and became full-time in 2000. “I don’t want to overstate it, but I spent more time with Terry Ryan than I did with my own father,” he said. “I look at him that way …”
A father figure with a humorous insistence on following baseball decorum.
“The Twins were in the middle of batting practice in Oakland,” Morse said. “Terry sees Mike walking across that huge foul territory to Paul Molitor near first base. Terry says, ‘What is he doing? He’s still going? He wants to coach first base? That’s a fine.’ ”
Herman was asking for the manager’s preference on a travel issue, but in Ryan’s world, that’s not supposed to happen during BP. So Herman had to pay a $1 fine, on Terry’s list of violations.
There was a more notorious violation on Herman’s résumé. Years earlier, he showed up at spring training driving a Mercedes convertible loaned by a friend. The legend of Herman and the Mercedes — “It didn’t even have a top!” Terry would exclaim — was not allowed to die.
Through the years, Ryan’s spring training vehicle (in contrast to Herman’s) went from a Ford Fusion, to a Ford Focus, to a vehicle that barely could make it across the parking lot.
“We would be on a bus going to the ballpark and a Mercedes would be next to us,” Morse said. “I’d say to Terry, ‘Is that as nice as Mike’s Mercedes?’ Terry would say, ‘Nah, it has a top.’ ”
Morse’s first lesson on baseball decorum came the first time he encountered Ryan in the Ballpark at Arlington. It was 2003 and Morse was in his first year as a Rangers media assistant.
“I stepped into an elevator and Terry was there,” Morse said. “I introduced myself and told Terry how I grew up a Twins fan and how much I’d like to work for the Twins someday.
“He said, ‘You’re with the Texas Rangers. I’m with the Twins. You be loyal to the Texas Rangers. That’s your organization.’ ”
Herman and Morse and Morse’s assistant, Mitch Hestad, mentioned the delight of those occasional nights when Ryan would tell scouting stories. Everyone’s favorite concerned a flight from the Caribbean when Terry was sitting next to one of the Twins employees from that era.
Ryan kept hearing the tweet of a bird. In Terry’s retelling, he was looking around, asking, “Where’s that coming from?” and finally the scout went “Ssshhh,” opened his jacket and showed a small wild bird that he was smuggling into the United States.
“Terry says, ‘Are you crazy? I’m going to have to fire you,’ ” Morse said. “And the guy with the bird says, ‘If you fire me, I’ll shoot you with a gun.’ ”
One ritual with Ryan, Herman and Morse was to “take a lap” — in Terry-ese, around a stadium concourse before a road game. Herman would bring four tickets to the Twins’ box behind the visitors dugout.
“We would look for a group in Twins gear, maybe a family, and then Terry would introduce himself, thank them for being Twins fans, and Mike would offer the box seats,” Morse said.
Herman smiled and said: “We were in Cleveland last September and it was about 32 degrees. There were 4,000 people there and we almost froze to death looking, but Terry finally found some Twins fans.”
Ryan’s tenure as Twins general manager ended when he was fired July 18. And Dustin Morse and the others who worked for him know this:
Wherever he winds up scouting, Terry’s loyalty to that organization will be unquestioned.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org