Ryan Lavarnway entered the professional ranks in 2008. A sixth-round draftee by the Red Sox out of Yale, he was in the majors within three years. Lavarnway debuted in August 2011, appearing in 17 games. He’d get into 46 contests the following season, tallying what would end up being a career-high 166 plate appearances. Lavarnway didn’t hit well that year but contributed a .299/.329/.429 line over 25 games for Boston’s eventual World Series winning club in 2013.
After one more season in Boston, he’d start to move around the league as a third/fourth catcher. Lavarnway split the 2015 season between the Orioles and Braves. He’d appear at the big league level with a different team for five more years, suiting up with the A’s, Pirates, Reds, Marlins and Indians through 2021. Lavarnway’s games played tally was in the single digits in all five seasons. That he got opportunities, however brief, with nearly a third of the league was a testament both to his strong clubhouse reputation and a quality .267/.360/.432 line in more than 2500 Triple-A plate appearances.
The California native ultimately appeared in 165 big league games over parts of ten seasons. He hit .217/.272/.345 with nine home runs, 30 doubles and 50 RBI over 486 plate appearances. He also represented Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics and twice in the World Baseball Classic. Lavarnway won Pool A MVP honors at the WBC in 2017 after collecting eight hits in 18 at-bats to help the team to a second-round berth that surprised most observers.
Lavarnway played in three games for Israel during this year’s World Baseball Classic to officially wrap up his playing career. Once the tournament ended, he announced his retirement in a thoughtful piece for The Athletic that’s well worth a read in full. Lavarnway conceded he didn’t have a great collection of physical tools but pointed to perseverance, love for the game, and strong support from coaches and teammates for helping him to a 15-year professional career.
Ryan graciously agreed to chat with MLBTR readers this morning. Click here to read a transcript.