By Maurice Patton
Calling Gary Lamm after 8:30 or so Tuesday night may not have been the best idea, after the big news from earlier in the day involving one of his protégés.
When the San Diego Padres announced their roster for the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ryan Weathers was on it – making the former Loretto High School two-sport standout likely to become the fifth player ever to make his Major League Baseball debut in the postseason.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Lamm, the Mustangs’ longtime coach who retired earlier this year after 26 seasons – including a 2017 campaign that culminated, with Weathers as a key cog, in a Class A state championship.
“To make the playoff roster and get that major league experience is great. I know he’s excited, I’m excited for him. (Parents) David and Kelli and the family are excited. All of Loretto, I guess, is excited.”
Game 1 of the best-of-5 series was set for an 8:38 p.m. (CT) first pitch at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
Prior to 2020, only two players had made their MLB debuts during the playoffs – Oakland Athletics second baseman Mark Kiger in 2006 and Kansas City Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi in 2015.
That number has doubled in the past week or so, with Minnesota Twins outfielder Alex Kirilloff starting Game 2 of his team’s AL Wild Card-round loss to the Houston Astros and Shane McClanahan coming out of the bullpen Monday night and working the final one-third inning of Tampa Bay’s 9-3 ALDS Game 1 loss to the New York Yankees.
“This year is truly a year unlike any other,” Baseball America executive editor J.J. Cooper said. “Not having (a Minor League) season and only a 60-game MLB season has created an unusual environment, plus no September roster expansion, (to) where we are seeing players jump to the majors in the playoffs.”
Weathers’ situation is more eyecatching when considering that, with the Padres selecting him seventh overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, he has yet to play beyond Class A.
“It looks puzzling, but had this been a normal year, he probably would have and it wouldn’t seem as unusual,” Cooper said. “Say he’d started at (Class AA), had a good first half, moved up to Triple-A and gotten a September callup, for instance.
“Instead, he was at the alternate site, but from all our reporting, he was really good there. From that end, here comes the reward.”
The left-hander was the second Gatorade National Player of the Year picked in the first round by San Diego in as many years, following North Carolina high school product Mackenzie Gore – who, by all accounts, Weathers apparently moved past during this summer’s work at the alternate site.
Despite the lack of experience, it’s pretty clear he’s not just on the roster for the exposure to the atmosphere.
“The Padres feel comfortable bringing him up in the most important series they’ve played in more than a decade,” Cooper said. “You’re seeing teams say, ‘we can have this guy, put a guy like this in the ‘pen, we may get some useful innings out of him’.
“It says a lot for him, but it’s not shocking, considering his background.”
David Weathers, Ryan’s father, pitched with eight different teams over a 19-year MLB career and earned a World Series championship ring with the Yankees in 1996 – three years before Ryan was born.
“They clearly think he can handle a big stage, considering he’s never been on it before,” Cooper said. “It’s a five-game series with no off days. You’re not putting anyone on the roster you don’t expect to use. You don’t put him on the roster if you don’t expect to use him.”
With that said, it’s less a matter of if Weathers will make his debut during the NLDS and more a case of when he’ll do so.
And Lamm and his neighbors will be watching.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Lamm said.