Alexander: Young Garvey realizes dad Steve knows best

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 11:16 AM

Jim Alexander

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The teenager hears the advice from his father, and ... well, you know how most teenagers are. What could HE possibly know about this?

Usually, it eventually sinks in that Dad does, indeed, know what he's talking about.

For Riverside Community College freshman outfielder Ryan Garvey, that epiphany came a couple years ago when he realized that if he was going to aim for a baseball career, it wouldn't hurt to listen to a guy who played 19 years in the big leagues with the Dodgers and Padres, with 10 All-Star appearances and one Most Valuable Player award.

Yeah, Steve Garvey probably has some credibility on the subject. If it took Ryan a while to figure that out, it could be because he was born six years after his dad's final big league game with San Diego in 1987.

"It was, 'He's my dad, he doesn't know anything,' " Ryan said. "But then I started to get over that. ... It's actually helped me to follow what he's been talking about all through my childhood."

The apple hasn't fallen that far from this tree, though Young Garv, through five RCC games, has struck out far more frequently than his dad ever did. Then again, he has a better arm than his dad ever did.

His approach to hitting?

"Right center," he said. "My dad's always gotten on me about going to right center. It's, 'You can drive a Taurus to left center, or a Mercedes (by going) to right center?' "

Ryan Garvey is at RCC primarily because of the siren call of the baseball draft. He was a 15th-round pick of the Phillies last June out of Palm Desert High in Palm Desert, Calif., but opted to attend USC, yet transferred after one semester.

"He was really torn between 'SC and the Phillies," Steve Garvey said in a phone conversation. "He'd always wanted to go to 'SC. It was in his heart, and I think if he would have signed with the Phils he would have always said to himself, 'What if? What would it have really been like at 'SC?'

"He loved it. He had a great fall, he did well on the field and he loved the whole atmosphere. But eventually he was spending six or seven hours in class and tutoring and not as much time on the baseball field as he expected, and he started thinking about what he really wanted. He said, 'Dad, I just want to be a professional baseball player. I don't know, if I go for one day of the second semester, if I'm going to regret spending the next three years and not be able to begin my pro career.'

"That was a pretty mature statement, and one from the heart."

Ultimately, Steve Garvey said, Mike Spiers of the ABD baseball academy program suggested they look at RCC because of coach Dennis Rogers' background in professional baseball and his emphasis on player development.

There Ryan Garvey gets a chance to hone his skills in a situation where he can be drafted in June, rather than having to wait until the end of his junior year if he'd stayed at a four-year institution.

Meanwhile, RCC's program gets the attention of a former big leaguer's son in its lineup and the attention of major league scouts, who might come to check out Young Garv and find several other nuggets to be mined, too.

"He's got a chance to be an offensive force," Rogers said. "He's a young kid who understands the hitting aspect."

Ryan started strong, going 2 for 9 with two doubles and two runs scored in the Tigers' first two games before tailing off. He's hitting .285 through five games, with a .285 on-base percentage, a .381 slugging percentage and six strikeouts in 21 at-bats.

Defensively, he has played left field and right field, and Rogers said he takes grounders at third (his dad's original position with the Dodgers) and first (where Steve wound up spending most of his career) as well.

The interesting thing here is that Ryan didn't devote much time to baseball until he was 12, when the family moved from Park City, Utah, to Palm Desert and he could play a schedule that wasn't abbreviated by weather. By 14, he'd started to develop his skills, and he was a three-year starter at Palm Desert High.

"I have a lot of things to catch up on," Ryan said.

And now he knows what Dad brings to the table.

He says he clicks on YouTube periodically to rewatch his dad's most famous home run, the walkoff shot that ended Game 4 of the Padres-Cubs National League Championship Series in 1984 and set up San Diego's first visit to the World Series.

Oh, and where did that home run go? Right center.

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