Written by Dennis Maffezzoli on July 29, 2014 | Herald-Tribune
Ex-Sailor finds Success in Big Leagues
ST PETERSBURG, Fla. – The big move for Ryan “Scooter” Gennett was moving from Ohio to Florida prior to attending high school so he could play more baseball.
A more subtle move came after his freshman season, when he transferred to Sarasota High from Riverview High.
“We used wood bats. We played good competition. We saw the best pitcher from every team,” Gennett said of his playing days with the Sailors. “It wasn’t that big of a difference making the transition from high school to pro ball because of what we did at Sarasota.”
Gennett is one of 15 Sailors who reached the big leagues, and currently, he is one of the most established: a second baseman with the National League Central Division-leading Milwaukee Brewers.
“He’s a baseball player,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “There’s a lot of energy about him.”
A .440 hitter as a junior and a .470 hitter as a senior with the Sailors, Gennett was on the radar of Milwaukee scout Tim McIlvaine, a cross checker based out of Tampa.
A Florida State commit, the Brewers got word Gennett was leaning toward not heading to Tallahassee, but looking to turn pro. Milwaukee drafted him in the 16th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft and shortly thereafter he signed for $250,000 to begin his pro career.
“He’s been well coached and plays the game hard,” Melvin said. “He’s just been a good ballplayer. He’s a heady player. He’s got a good feel for the game, good instincts. His fielding has improved quite a bit and he can hit.”
Among National League second basemen, Gennett ranks first in batting average (.304) and slugging percentage (.480), based on his eight home runs, 22 doubles and three triples.
This past offseason, he put down the bat, ball and glove and picked up the fork, gaining 15 to 20 pounds of muscle to increase his weight to 190 on his 5-foot-10 frame.
“Just starting eating a lot more and changed my lifestyle a little bit,” Gennett said. “I didn’t do a lot during the offseason. I never really put the ball down in the past. I just rested and put on some good weight.”
Gennett has topped out at nine home runs during two seasons in the minors, but should pass that total in his first full season in the big leagues.
“In the minor leagues, it’s more about development and working on stuff you need to,” Gennett said. “Here you have to win. It’s almost like normal baseball. It’s what you are used to.
“It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you win, you did your job. It’s not to say you don’t want to win or it doesn’t matter if you win, there just wasn’t the same aspect of the game in the minor leagues.”
With a mix of veterans and youngsters on the Brewers, the 22-year-old Gennett has a number of players he can turn to for advice.
“Guys want to help. They want the team to be as good as possible. They are there for you to ask questions,” he said.
The most common advice he receives is, “Do what you know what you can do. Don’t try to do too much. You got here doing the right thing, so don’t change anything, just keep working harder.”
He can also turn to the person who jump-started his baseball career, his father Joseph, a former scout with the Houston Astros.
“He knows me better than anybody,” Gennett said. “He can tell just by looking at my body language if I’m doing all right and feeling good. That’s always good when you can get that father/son relationship away from baseball. He gives me advice on more off the field stuff.”
More than 20 family members and friends took in Gennett’s first visit to Tropicana Field on Monday night to play the Tampa Bay Rays.
Gennett, who was No. 44 on the HT Fab 50 top area high school baseball players of all-time, said he looked forward to seeing everyone.
“My family and friends are so far away. We don’t get to see each other a whole lot,” he said. “To be able to come back home and see people, it’s awesome.”
With the Rays starting right-handers Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb the first two games of the series, Gennett was in the starting lineup.
However, it was not a happy homecoming Monday, as he struck out three times.
“I used to come to the games (at Tropicana Field) all the time here, before they were real good,” he said. “I don’t remember the specific games. I came to a lot of the bigger games, when they played New York and Boston.”
Platooning at second base with right-handed hitting Rickie Weeks, Gennett came into the series with the Rays hitting .335 with six homers and 24 runs batted in during his previous 47 games.
“Between Rickie and him, we have two good offensive players,” Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. “It’s not like when Rickie is in there we are missing something.
“They are a little bit different. Rickie is more patient and will get his walks. Scooter’s average this year is really good. His average last year was really good. His on-base is basically what his average is.”
Melvin said there are a number of underrated players on the Brewers and in their system, and Gennett fits into that group.
“Scooter is a guy you are going to look back on,” Melvin said.
(Direct link to publication: click here)