As the acquisitive media thugs we are, we have decided to abscond with our first major league baseball player—not in a Remembering Guys kind of way, but as an actual seizure of human property. We are taking with our first pick in the That Guy Belongs To Us Because We Say So draft, from the Detroit Tigers, infielder Ryan Kreidler.
We do this not because his story is particularly unique: starred on his high school team, got a baseball ride at UCLA, got drafted, did the Wenatchee/Mankato/Wareham/Norwich/Salt River/Grand Rapids/Erie/Toledo thing all but the rarest of players do to get to the point where he gets called into his manager’s office for the news that he’s finally been called up to the majors. He is a modest-hitting, excellent defensive utility infielder getting a look from a team that is frankly difficult to look at most days.
No, we do this for more selfish reasons, namely to see if the fact that his father Mark, a longtime sportswriter in San Diego and Sacramento, is the reason for his athletic gifts, and if that science can be applied to the Defector staff members who want to have athletic children, or more sensibly, any kind of children at all.
As it turns out, it can’t. Not here anyway. None of that “I’ll make my kid throw left-handed because all my time watching and writing about games must count for something,” because in the Kreidler case, his array of fast-twitch muscles and competitive drive come from his mother Colleen Costello-Kreidler and her sibling set. “Oh believe me, this has nothing to do with me,” Kreidler said with a laugh. “That’s all Colleen. I’m along for the ride.”
That would normally end the story there, because there is no DNA gain for any of the comrades here, unless they also happen to have Costello blood in them, which they don’t (Comrade Petchesky, for example, has no blood at all). But here is the other reason we have glommed onto the Kreidler storeyette. Comrades Anantharaman and Theisen are unrepentant Michigan sports fans, and given that the Tigers, Lions, Pistons, and Red Wings are offering little in the area of warmth, small victories must be inflated into slightly larger ones.
So, Ryan Kreidler. Who, by the way, hit the winning home run in yesterday’s 5-4 Detroit win at Anaheim, a classic 11th place vs. 14th place showdown between a team with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and a team with Spencer Torkelson and Ryan Kreidler. And mom and dad were there, as they have been for the previous five games. That’s a lot of Tigers baseball to endure, but when you’ve been in for 24 years, what’s another week?
Kreidler the Elder spoke of his son’s metamorphosis while his mother slept, exhausted from a week tracking her son from Toledo to Detroit to Anaheim. “The thing is, they don’t want us to help him do anything,” Kreidler pere said. “He’s a big leaguer, and they do all the stuff that needs to be done to get him from where he is to where he needs to be, and he shows up where he’s supposed to and does what players do. We’re just supposed to get ourselves to the ballpark.”
And after six games, watching him jack a 2-1 fastball from Jose Quijada beyond the skills of Mike Trout into the void beyond the Cremily and Yokohama Tire signs in left-center field. His homer came three pitches after a Kerry Carpenter homer that tied the game, and made him the 650th Tiger to ever hit a home run. “He got high-fived by Miggy Cabrera in the dugout,” his dad said. “Is that not cool?”
Young Kreidler even showed how well he talks player jargon: “It was a super heater,” he said, describing Quijada’s pitch while standing in front his locker like Commodore Badass. “They had blown me up inside all day, so I was ready to go. I knew that lefty. I looked for a heater, got a heater and put a good swing on it.”
Yeah, that’ll play. But it will play alongside exchanging pleasantries with Trout at third base in the bottom of the first Monday night, and even getting a deep bow from Shohei Ohtani later in the game as a welcome to the world’s biggest treehouse, because when you’re in the club, you’re in the goddamned club. Future Hall of Famers welcome the Ryan Kreidlers because it’s a small world and those who just make it get the proper respect from those who define it. It’s the little things that make it all worth the years and the blisters and the snack bars and the cold bleachers, not to mention all the games that couldn’t be seen because Dad had to go watch the Sacramento Kings play the Minnesota Timberwolves for no discernible reason.
Which brings us to the revelation his father had when they sat at Comerica Park for his first big league game: “I’m the guy who spent half his life casually making judgments about athletes, and now I’m seeing just how amazing it is just for him to be here.” Another well-tempered cynic destroyed by the late pay-off of parenthood. The profession weeps at yet another casualty.
In fact, Mark Kreidler found out one other thing his former profession (he has moved on to saner pursuits) no longer bothers to do: provide a box score for clipping and saving. “I had to go all over hell just to find a paper,” he said ruefully. But as long as he has access to a printer, he has this and this. He and Colleen (well, mostly Colleen) can say they created the 22,809th player in major league history, the one who hit the 326,566th home run in history. They can also worry for him this offseason because he, like his teammates, will have to sweat out whatever regime change comes next for a team that fired its general manager a month ago and hasn’t yet replaced him.
Until then, Ryan Kreidler is a guy with a Baseball Reference page, a home run, and a fleeting but very real relationship with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Here’s hoping he has the good sense not to say anything about what his dad did for a living, because the best he could hope for is Trout saying, “Well, you’ve overcome quite a bit of adversity there,” before averting his eyes in distrust and disgust.