Ryan Lavarnway will be chatting with MLBTR readers tomorrow at 10am Central. Click here to ask questions in advance or join in the chat when it’s in progress!
Veteran catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who spent parts of 10 seasons in the Majors and 15 seasons in pro ball overall, announced his retirement on Wednesday in a thoughtful and poignant piece at The Athletic. Fans of any team are encouraged to read through Lavarnway’s piece, which deftly details the trials and tribulations of a prototypical journeyman who overcame a self-admitted lack of athleticism in large part due to a “sixth tool” — being “really, really good at not quitting.”
Lavarnway, 35, was a sixth-round pick by the Red Sox in 2008 and was twice named the organization’s minor league offensive player of the year. He’s twice suited up for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic and played 25 games with the 2013 World Series champion Red Sox.
Lavarnway never cemented himself as a regular in the big leagues despite hitting his way into being a prospect of some note with the Sox. The well-traveled backstop writes that he wore 18 different uniforms over his career and was optioned, traded, claimed on waivers or released a combined 26 times throughout his career. Along the way, he appeared for the Red Sox, Pirates, Braves, Athletics, Marlins, Reds, Indians and Orioles.
While he never topped 46 big league games or 166 big league plate appearances in a season, Lavarnway saw a total of 165 MLB games and 486 trips to the plate, during which he batted .217/.272/.345 with nine homers. He wound up accruing more than three years of Major League service time throughout his many MLB stints. Lavarnway also spent parts of 11 seasons in Triple-A, where he was a combined .267/.360/.432 hitter with 79 more homers in 2580 plate appearances. Best wishes to Lavarnway in whatever next step he pursues.
Ah, the quintenssential fourth catcher who appears for a few games every year. I remember his short stint with the Pirates because he hit a walk off in one of the six games he appeared in. He played the game for 15 years professionally, made a little over $1 million, and I hope he enjoys retirement.
He’s a good guy. I had the pleasure of meeting him and joining him and Francisco Cervelli for breakfast at Pamela’s in the Strip District, on a Sunday morning before a Pirates afternoon game. He & his family are owners of West Highland White Terriers. Anyone who loves Westies is alright in my book.
Anyone who eats at Pamela’s before a game is alright in my book!
See you in Cooperstown, Ryan.
Cooperstown, North Dakota? I hear apartments are cheap there.
Fever Pitch Guy
Eric – I don’t understand, why rag on the guy? He was an MLB player for quite a while, only a very tiny percentage of men can say that. He obviously reads here and is graciously doing a chat, no need to mock him.
Buuba ho tep
Yes why rag on a guy who made it to the big show….how many men can say they played MLB. Just a rude and stupid post
One of my favorite baseball players! Congratulations on a great and exciting career Ryan! So glad you’ll be chatting tomorrow and talking about your journey in baseball. And I’m so glad the last jersey you got to wear was that of Team Israel! Best of luck in your next adventure!
The guy made it to “The Show!” Good on him. Enjoy retirement. We’ll probably see him in a coaching roll sometime.
“roll” is a bun (noun) or motion (verb). Use “role” for this.
This is maybe a mean thing to point out, but that guy singlehandedly kept the 2011 Red Sox out of the playoffs with his play on the last day of the year. Francona bumped him up to 5th in the order because he popped two homers the day before and his day went as follows:
T2:: Groundout to lead off the inning
T3: IBB Gonzalez to get to him, grounds out with 1st and 3rd to end inning
T5: Lines out with 1st and 2nd and one out
T7: IBB Gonzalez to get to him, grounds out with 1st and 3rd to end inning
T9: IBB Gonzalez to get to him, grounds into double play with bases loaded to end inning.
So that’s 9 men on base for him, none of whom he brought in. Poor guy
Wow, Ruthless, that really stuck with you! Impressive recall!
Actually he could’ve helped the Sox, but it was Robert Adino who actually did beat them, with an assist from Carl Crawford.
That’s Orioles LEGEND Robert Andino, sir 😉
The Red Sox could not have possibly won one of their other games that year.
No one else in the order could have possibly brought in another run somehow.
No one pitching could have possibly prevented another run.
I really hope you don’t coach kids. My goodness.
(BTW, Dan Johnson says hi)
Yeah I’m being a bit silly with singlehandedly because nothing in baseball is ever singlehanded. Though lol I love your “I really hope you don’t coach kids” response. “Oh God this guy on the internet put too much focus on one MLB player WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN”
I asked him about this. I was at the game. I followed his career because I felt bad for him.
Oh what did he say?
Two certain ways a manager can lose the game, lineup construction and bullpen management. Sounds like Francona lost that game when the ink dried on the lineup card
This seems more like a Francona problem for batting him fifth.
He hurt them by popping two homers the day before. SMH. What are you talking about?! The best players go 0-5 all the time. That’s not a season lost. Silly sir!
Sounds like Francona singlehandedly lost them the game!
Fever Pitch Guy
myaccount – Tito did that a lot in 2011. Remember he was living in a motel room and had some personal demons he was dealing with, he should have taken a leave of absence. If he had, the historic collapse never would have happened.
Sounds like Francona singlehandedly lost them the game!
Pretty much nonsense. No one behind him in the lineup look to be better alternatives (Drew, Scutaro, Crawford & Avila).
If anyone takes the blame for the loss, it would be Papelbon blowing the lead with two outs and no one on.
Joe Brady- Well I’m not a Red Sox fan, so I don’t know about injuries, but they had 6 regular starters with an OPS+ above 110 and a regular bench piece with an OPS+ of 109, plus Lavarnway was a rookie who had only taken 39 PAs all season prior to that game (if I’m counting correctly). So maybe it wasn’t Tito’s fault, although it seems Lavarnway shouldn’t have been 5th, regardless of whose numbers were better or worse–and I would’ve trusted vets in Drew, Crawford, Avila, Scutaro much more in such an important game over a young guy with so little experience– but it sure as heck seems dumb for OP to say a light-hitting, 23 year old, rookie C singlehandedly lost them that game.
I’d say it was more Francona’s fault than Ryan’s. He set the lineup. Could have been pulled at any time.
deGrom Texas Ranger
I remember hearing about this guy as a top prospect with monster numbers in the minors. I guess it’s more about adapting to the MLB than it is about talent, so this guy didn’t turn out to be the star many had hoped. He was one of the first few players I remember from when I was a fan.
I just noticed he was drafted out of Yale. Probably has a nice future.
Happy Passover Ryan, you can enjoy the Seder with your family without worrying about being a spring training cut the next day. Peace
Stop hockin my chinik!
I have to imagine coaching is in Ryan’s future (and Tim Federowicz’ as well)
Now he’ll get to put that Yale degree to some good.
Dusty Baker's tooth pick.
A smart guy who has always managed to stick around, enjoy retirement!
Baseball isn’t a bad place to land if you lack athleticism. Barry Zito openly admitted he wasn’t really an athlete and I think the majority of people on this site could have outrun David Ortiz in his prime.
Never underestimate the speed of the very slow guys.
Ask Juan Lagares and Mets fans about Matt Albers. One of the funniest highlights I’ve ever seen in pro sports.
I remember him on the Red Sox. Too bad his career didn’t exactly pan out the way it was projected but at least he got to the Majors. That’s an accomplishment.
Wait – isn’t his grandson with the Phillies single A team?
My favorite part of his stint in Cleveland is that he was supposed to get to Cleveland a bit earlier. But this was 2020 or 21 and COVID contact tracing was a big deal. One of the catchers at AAA Columbus had it, right when the big league club was down a catcher due to injury. All of the AAA catchers including Lavarnaway were too close.
Originally, Gavin Collins was going to get the promotion. But he was out with Covid. Lavarnaway was deemed a close contact. So they had to call up Gianpaul Gonzalez, a non-prospect with less than 600 career minor league at bats to his name over 6+ seasons. It was as close as baseball gets to hockey’s “Random Janitor who used to play goalie at D3 gets to play in an emergency” stories. Gonzalez was DFA’d after 2 days, and Lavarnaway was called up as soon as a negative test cleared him.
“Random Janitor who used to play goalie at D3 gets to play in an emergency”
My cousin did that. He was a jack of all trades-worked the penalty box, maybe the timekeeper, some other stuff, and was the emergency goalie. It’s kind of a cool gig for a kid.
Gritty dude to stick it out as long as he did, ya gotta respect that. With as many catchers as there are that end up on coaching staffs and as managers, I strongly suspect that this will not be the last baseball fans hear of him.
That article in The Athletic IS really good:)
Actually, just saw him play for Melbourne Aces in the Australian Baseball League in the offseason:)
Ryan ended up with 3.102 years ML service time. I look up the service time for recently retired players and am often surprised at how relatively little service time they had in their career for how many seasons they played.
Have a wonderful retirement Ryan! I hope you find a way to stay involved with baseball if that’s your desire.