Ryan taking playoff thrill in stride
Cards shortstop, and LA native, keeping emotions in check
LOS ANGELES -- The last thing Brendan Ryan needs is another reason to get excited. So although he definitely has one this week, he's doing all he can not to get too caught up in what's going on around him.
Ryan is a Los Angeles native, and playing at Dodger Stadium in the playoffs is a pretty momentous occasion for him. But he's trying everything he can to avoid thinking about just what it all means. After all, he did play a high school state championship game at Chavez Ravine.
"I'm trying to play it real casual, like I've done it before," Ryan said on Tuesday following the Cardinals' workout at Dodger Stadium. "Because depending on how you look at it, I kind of have. I was joking around about it earlier. I've been out on the line, had my name called out, it was postseason. It was a championship -- state championship. So depending on how you look at it, I've kind of been here before."
Still, Ryan knows that it's no joking matter to be in the position he's in. Something of an excitable sort, he needs to be reliable as well. He's the starting shortstop and a pivotal defensive player on a division champion. He knows what's on his shoulders. So he's been listening closely to what veteran teammates have to say about playing in October.
"Some of the guys had some things to say, some great points," he said. "Don't worry if it's a big situation, two outs, two on. Don't worry about getting a base hit. Worry about what he's going to try to do to you, and what you've done along the way to get us to this position. If it happens or not, just make sure you prepared the best you can."
Among the players whose insight Ryan lapped up were Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Chris Carpenter -- a pretty nice roll call. Some advised younger Cardinals about playing the game, some about preparation. And then there's a concern that could be especially challenging for Ryan: tickets. So he's just trying to stay out of it.
"My brother is kind of handling that stuff," he said. "I'm not really responding to anyone. It's like, no hard feelings, you know? I don't really care at this point. Albert was sharing, for a lot of us, this is our first time. For some of us, it could be our last time. You hope it's not, but it could be. So treat it with the utmost importance and limit the distractions. One of the big ones that 'Carp' was telling me to be careful with is ticket requests, especially being from L.A."
That adds up to a lot of good advice from a lot of sage voices. Ryan is also playing for a manager who knows more than a little bit about getting prepared for the playoffs. So if it doesn't work, if he doesn't rein himself in, it won't be for lack of assistance. Or lack of trying.
"A lot of guys come in this game and they play young," Tony La Russa said. "It's fun, fun, fun, and then they learn. And Brendan has learned. ... This kid played great -- hit .290. Great wheels, competed like a maniac. It's been fun to watch him start to understand. Now he likes it. He likes what he's doing and I think he'll make the commitment to be that the rest of his career."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.