Monday, August 04, 2008
Chatting With Ryan Langerhans
Since joining Our Washington Nationals early in the 2007 Season, Ryan Langerhans ups and downs have been well documented. A quality outfielder, who struggled mightily at the plate last season. A year in which Our General Manager Jim Bowden had to expose him to waivers--in order to send him down to AAA Columbus--making Our Number 29 available to every other team in baseball. A decision made tougher when Ryan cleared waivers and had to decide whether he wished to remain in Washington.
Twice now since last August, Langerhans has re-lived this same scenario. Each time, he accepted a move to The Clippers. Now, fresh off a solid early season in Columbus, Ryan finds himself back in Washington,and receiving quality playing time (some might say he deserves more), and hitting the baseball far more consistently than last season. Our Number 29 has been a good player for Our Team since returning from The Minor Leagues.
This past Friday Morning, I caught with Ryan Langerhans at The UPS Store in NW Washington for The Back To School Drive Promotion this past weekend at New Nationals Park. A Community effort in which his wife, Shari, was fully supporting.
After the conclusion of the UPS Event--Ryan Langerhans took some time to speak with me on his season, his hopes and the odd year season 2008 of Our Washington Nationals has been. Remember, this interview took place the morning after the release of Paul LoDuca, Felipe Lopez and Johnny Estrada and before Alberto Gonzalez and Emilio Bonifacio played their first game in a Washington Uniform.
With that--here we go with "Chatting With Ryan Langerhans".
Being in the game as long as you’ve been, yesterday had to be an odd day to be a baseball player. What is that like to go through? (SBF)
“It’s tough, especially when you have guys you’ve built a relationship with. In Felipe’s case, I was here with him for two years. In Paul’s case, I got to know him, both as a teammate and while playing against him. It's just tough to see anybody go and you hate to see it when they are good guys. Apparently, they (Team Management) want to take a look at some of those young guys.”
How difficult is it to get use to the business of the game? (SBF)
“From a player’s standpoint my mindset is to come to the yard every day and play. But the business side of the game is something you always have to be aware of--learn and adjust. It’s tough sometimes, but you have to deal with that business stuff too.”
You mentioned you are practicing at First Base, are you looking to get in some playing time at that position? (SBF)
“I want to be ready if Manny (Acta) needs someone late in a game or he needs someone to go in there and play the position well. I want to be able do a good job there if he needs me.”
When I spoke with you at Spring Training, you told me you worked all winter long trying to re-find your batting stroke, you’ve had a good season in AAA and now you are back here—what more have you been doing to improve your game? (SBF)
“I have been working really hard on just being calm at the plate and not trying to do too much. If the pitcher is going to give me a single, I am going to take it. I am not only trying not to worry too much but Lenny Harris is working with me on relaxing my lower half of my body and just stepping to the plate and taking what they are giving me. He always tells me if I just go up there and hit the ball hard—good things are going to happen. And the last couple of weeks, it’s been working.”
Through it all, your struggles at the plate, your fielding has not been affected. (SBF)
“I take great pride in it (fielding). My Dad (who also coached Ryan) always told me growing up you have to separate the two. And it’s a great feeling if I am struggling at the plate but I help the team win on the defensive side. Plus, it’s a great feeling, because most of the time the pitcher has made a mistake and it’s great to bail him out. You see how fired up he (the pitcher) gets as a result of it. Many times a nice defensive play can give the pitcher that extra energy to get him out of a jam.”
I guess there is nothing like the pitcher raising his fist in salute or pointing at you from the mound after a fine defensive play? (SBF)
“Yes, exactly. And that is a good point, knowing you are helping your teammate and your teammate appreciates your effort. (Smiling Broadly) It is a great feeling."
Moving forward to the rest of this season—what are you hoping to do, accomplish? (SBF)
“Fortunately, I have had the chance to get some starts the past couple of weeks. I want to be ready for whatever role the team wants for me, whether that’s giving someone a day off, get some starts, or even coming off the bench. I want to be ready everyday and I feel like my preparation the past couple of weeks is one of the very reasons I have done well. I want continue with that.”
Knowing yesterday was a tough day (the release of three veterans), both team wise and personally, do you still see some hope with this team turning things around? Fans want to know that. (SBF)
“I do (pausing thoughtfully). I really do. It has turned out to be one of those odd things, especially during this current losing streak, where we just can’t put both sides of the game together at the same time. We got unbelievable pitching for about five or six days in a row. Then, we couldn’t produce anything with the bat. While it hasn’t been quite the output we produced in Atlanta with the 15 runs in that one game, the last couple of nights we put runs on the board and ran into some kinks out in the field, made some bad pitches in some tough situations. But, I truly believe if we can put both sides of the game together, for a two to three week stretch, the fans are going to see some good results. There is talent here. We just haven’t been able to put it all together.”
It’s been such an odd year, in so many ways. (SBF)
“It really has, that is exactly correct. I have never been involved in the amount of injuries, which have gotten in the way (of this team). We just can’t seem to get everyone on the field at the same time. While it was nice having Zim (Ryan Zimmerman), (Austin) Kearns back---we get Zim and Kearns back at the time we lost Lastings (Milledge) and Elijah (Dukes). And Dukes had started to play so incredibly well. Now, getting Elijah back we can keep our fingers crossed that Zim is not out for too long (after being hit on the wrist last Thursday). If we can get everybody back on the field, then with the way some of the pitchers have been pitching—I really think we can put up a good last two months.”
When Zimmerman got hit last night, it was silent in that ballpark. (SBF)
“It was. And it was silent in the dugout. How much more can we take. When he came back into the clubhouse, we all saw the lump on his hand. I think everyone kind of feared the worst (broken). But, evidently, it looks like he won’t miss too much time.”
I don’t know if you saw the reply, but his wrist looked like it was swelling up WHILE HE WAS STANDING ON SECOND BASE. (SBF)
“Yeah, I know. When he came back into the dugout, after he scored the run, it looked like someone slipped a golf ball underneath his hand. (Chuckling) It was quite amazing. I have had some bumps like that, but nothing that swelled that quickly. It looked bad and we are fortunate his wrist was not broken.”
Speaking of injuries—do they really get the team down when things like that happen? (SBF)
“I think it does. Anytime you have a guy that goes out on the field, lays it all out on the line, never gives up everyday, and you see that man go down—it can be pretty deflating (Zimmerman). But, at the same time, someone else must step up and take the reigns, and lead by example. In fact, I think that is something both Zim and Austin do very well—-lead by example. Neither of them are Rah! Rah! Guys, and when they go down—others need to keep the ship moving—knowing the effort those two bring to the field every single day.”
“Manny is always talking about that. You can’t let injuries get you down. You got to keep on moving because the season is going to go on without them. If you dwell on something like that, everything is going to spiral down.”
Is Manny the most positive man you have ever met? He rarely seems upset. Or I am just not seeing that, behind the scenes? (SBF)
“No, he is that way, positive, no matter what goes on. We had early batting practice yesterday and he's out there watching and participating in the early BP. He was encouraging 4 or 5 of us. He really is the type of guy you really want to play for. Everyone just wants to leave everything out on the field for him. He’s a good leader.”
You just touched on a point that some fans dicker over. They believe that Manny is not hands on. That he watches, more than participates. I have always disagreed with that premise—having seen Manny be very hands on in Spring Training. (SBF)
“He is always out there. During batting practice, he will be out on the field with Pete Orr fielding groundballs. And not only with just Pete, but all the fielders. He gets out there and gets his hands dirty just like every other player on the team.”
With that, "My Chat With Ryan Langerhans" concluded. He needed to head back to the ballpark to prepare for that night's game. For some time, I have always been a fan of this young man. Our Number 29 is an excellent outfielder and if his hitting continues to improve--he many well have a fine career here in The Nation's Capital for Our Washington Nationals. Whether as a spot starter, 4th Outfielder, Late Inning Defensive Replacement--Ryan Langerhans has value to Our Team. A solid player that doesn't carry any excess baggage--off the field.