ARLINGTON, Texas (WFLA) – If you follow the Tampa Bay Rays, you have probably followed the journey of Ryan Thompson, a right handed pitcher with a different type of delivery. His style is unique and, consequently, he fits into the Rays style of baseball.
“We knew the best version of our club had him on it,” explained the Rays manager, Kevin Cash, on Monday afternoon.
That explanation is only necessary because Thompson, who is 28 years old, made his MLB debut earlier this season.
The rookie reliever pitched in 25 regular season games allowing 29 hits, recording 23 strikeouts, and finishing with a 4.44 ERA.
Thompson has also pitched in nine postseason games including three games in this World Series. His statistics reflect his talent: 9.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 10 SO, 4 BB, 1.93 ERA.
He said he had an entertaining conversation with the Rays bullpen coach, Stan Boroski, on Sunday.
Boroski asked him what he had been doing one year ago.
“I was substitute teaching. I was doing lessons. I was tag teaming with my mom doing Wii Dance Club at the high school,” said Thompson.
He elaborated on that “Wii Just Dance Club” here.
“I was just trying to make as much money as I could,” he said, “so I could afford training and I was in Triple-A. Minor league life is not easy.”
The Houston Astros drafted Thompson in the 23rd round of the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft. He spent four seasons with the Astros organization before he was chosen by the Rays in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft.
Thompson had Tommy John surgery that same year, a year that would prove to be monumental in his baseball career.
“When I had my surgery,” he said, “everything was up in the air. I did not know. The success rate is good from Tommy John but there were conversations whether or not Tommy John was the exact surgery I needed. It was a really difficult time for me. That year, in my journey, was the biggest year of my life for sure.”
The surgery would eliminate the pain he had been experiencing when he was on the mound and, while he was recovering from that surgery, he chose to focus on himself.
“I kind of used that time to clean up my life,” he said. “When your mind is so focused on baseball and competing and getting guys out, you do not really have that time to really think about who you are and where you are going and your relationships and your diet and all of these things that I was just intentionally being complacent about and so I had a full year to not think about baseball. I was focused on my weight lifting, my conditioning, my diet, my relationship with God, my relationship with my girlfriend at the time, family, like, everything at once. I became a better human being.”
He also became a better pitcher.
“I lost 30 pounds and, when I came back, I gained 4 or 5 mph. That was the year that made my career. I think that if I did not have that, if I did not have that surgery,” Thompson said, “I do not think I would be here right now.”
Thompson and the Tampa Bay Rays will compete against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas.
“I cannot imagine being on a team outside of the Tampa Bay Rays,” he said. “We are best friends on the field and off the field. We are a team that feeds off of each other. It is our passion that makes us so good.”
He added a question and an answer that would be tough to dispute.
“Is it crazy that the Tampa Bay Rays are in the World Series? Yes,” stated Thompson, “but, at the same time, no because we are good enough to be here.”