ASHMORE: Ryan Kalish Looks To Get Back On Track With Bees

By: Mike Ashmore (for Courier News)

It's easy to forget that Ryan Kalish is just 29 years old.

It's easy to forget that, prior to injury after injury after injury that's derailed his career time after time, Kalish was once one of the biggest prospects in all of baseball.

It is, perhaps, easy to forget that even after over a half-dozen operations, he still got back to the big leagues in less than month with the Chicago Cubs in 2016.

Perhaps you've forgotten about Ryan Kalish all together, since he hasn't played on American soil in 21 months.

But do not forget, not for a second, where Kalish grew up. Born in the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles, Kalish made a name for himself at Red Bank Catholic High School.

Ryan Kalish grew up in New Jersey. Set to make another memorable comeback attempt, there isn't any surgery that can take that out of him.

"The thing about Jersey is I feel like it's a very hard-nosed area, especially sports-wise," he told in a lengthy phone conversation.

"People are very tough in the area, so you know you're getting the best out of pretty much everyone. Obviously, the density in population, in my opinion, increases the level of competition by a ton. If you don't work in New Jersey, you're not going to rise. You see more and more people coming out of Jersey. If you're not willing to work, you're going to be in trouble, and I really am thankful for that. Everybody works hard at these levels, but I just feel like that simple east coast 'I'm here to work" mentality is a really big part of being good at baseball."

Kalish won't be authoring his latest comeback story in New Jersey -- he's instead signed a deal with the Atlantic League's New Britain Bees, the Liberty Division rival of the Somerset Patriots, who also expressed interest -- but is headed back home for six weeks after completing workouts in California.

"At the moment, I'm in LA, but I'm heading up to Northern California for a little bit to hit with my best buddy Lars Anderson and another guy named Gary Malec; they started a baseball bat company together called Birdman Bats," Kalish said.

"It's like a big family of baseball guys, and we're going to get out there every day and hit and run around. For the six weeks leading up to right before the season, I'm actually going to end up in New Jersey, which is where I grew up. I'm going to head back there and get ready for the season, I think it makes sense to get sort of nested on the east coast for a while before the season starts. I'll be in Red Bank. I'll probably live in Sea Bright, because that just seems like where the best rentals are right now for me, but it's all very familiar territory."

Having made a name for himself not far from there, Kalish was taken in the ninth round of the MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox in 2006 and made his big league debut in July of 2010.

It was to be the beginning of his time as one of the cornerstones of the franchise.

Instead, it was the start of a rocky path that saw him sidelined with no fewer than eight surgeries prior to his latest stint in The Show with the Cubs just two years ago.

"At this point, I'm not frustrated anymore," said Kalish of losing time to injuries.

"I was frustrated, especially during the first three or four years of (missing) time. But eventually, you just have to kind of make peace with what's happened. For me, I don't know, maybe I wouldn't have been a solid human being if everything had went smoothly. I'm not looking back, I don't feel those feelings anymore. That's the old me."

Of course, those injuries have taken their toll. The laid-back outfielder would be lying if he said retirement hadn't crossed his mind, especially after having to undergo further knee operations in 2016 one year after missing the entire season recovering from a microfracture procedure.

"I said at that moment, I think that was the first time after those two surgeries where I said if I get hurt again, I'm probably done," he said.

"With what happened in 2016, even with the small amount of time I played, I made it back to the big leagues after less than a month in Triple-A. Once that happened and I got that taste again of making it to the highest level, I was like, 'I can't quit, that's ridiculous.' It would be one thing if I was terrible. The work is still going's not like I'm just going to show up and hit, because it's not that easy. It doesn't matter what level you're at, hitting a live pitcher is something you can't replicate. Getting back out there and seeing more of that is exactly what I need."

And the Atlantic League is where Kalish will do just that. He felt a connection with new Bees manager Wally Backman, and enjoyed the familiarity that playing in that region gave him.

"Wally was interested, and we had such an amazing chat," Kalish said. "I've always heard such good things from a lot of people about him, so I was really excited about that. New Britain's so close to Boston and Pawtucket and everything, and I've spent so much time out there and played at that stadium in Double-A, so I'm real excited."

Kalish, who had actually signed with the American Association's Sioux City Explorers in 2016 but never actually played a game for them before accepting an offer from the Cubs, joked that the more he plays baseball, the more he knows that he doesn't know anything. But he is familiar with independent baseball, acknowledging that "guys in this league are fighting to keep their careers alive."

The six foot, 215-pounder will start the fight in as good of physical condition as can be expected, having already tested the waters with short stints overseas this winter.

"That's the best part about it, I feel really good," he said.

"There was an adjustment period, and there always is. I've had so many surgeries at this point, that I kind of know that I'm going to feel some stuff when I first get back into it. As it keeps going and going and everything mends, I start feeling better and better. That's what I feel like happened through Australia and Puerto Rico for me. Obviously, I would have loved to have played better for those two teams, but I had 20 months off from seeing live pitching before that moment. Before that, I'd played for five months and missed 15 months before that. You're looking at a long period of time off from live pitching, so I'm excited to continue that fight up in New Britain."

For many players who've been through what he has, a commitment to only a few weeks of playing in the Atlantic League would hardly be unprecedented.

But it's clear that even though he's left New Jersey, New Jersey hasn't left Ryan Kalish. He's not giving up that easily, not just yet.

"I think it's a mix. I honestly think a year playing indy ball and maybe another round of winter ball, but at that point, if I'm not seeing the type of progression that I want to be seeing, I think I would feel totally cool walking away from the game," he said.

"But that's just my overall thought. Plans change. I'm not really sure exactly what will happen. But in a year from now, I'm going to have a really good idea of where things are headed. I have a lot of things I want to do in my life after the game, but I feel personally after 70 at-bats (overseas) and not really playing that well after such a long time off...sometimes I feel like I want to walk away, but I don't want to lay my head down in two years and say, 'I just did all that for 70 at-bats and just walked away?' That would be stupid. There's a lot of mix there, and there's really no telling what will happen."

Search Archive »

Browse by Year »


Browse by Month »

April 2024
March 2024
February 2024
January 2024
December 2023
November 2023
October 2023
September 2023
August 2023
July 2023
June 2023
May 2023
April 2023
March 2023
February 2023
January 2023
December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015