Twenty-four-year-old Ryon Healy has had what he’ll always remember as the best week of his life. Well it was a week and two days, it was ten baseball games and it was one heck of a week for a rookie.
Healy has been a spark for the Athletics who have struggled all season. Now they have won seven of their last ten games since the all-star break and Healy has played in each one of those games. He even played a huge part in two of their last three games, both walk-off wins for the A’s.
On Saturday, the A’s were down 3-1 entering the bottom of the ninth inning in front of a full (yes, full) crowd at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. A’s starter Kendall Graveman had just pitched his first career complete game allowing just the three runs but the A’s bats hadn’t backed him up the way they should have been able to.
However, that was about to change. Alex Colome was on the mound for the Rays. He walked the first batter Khris Davis and got Yonder Alsonso swinging. With one out in the bottom of the ninth the odds of the A’s coming back again, given they had scored a run to win it in the bottom of the 13th inning on Friday night, seemed slim.
With the two teams on the verge of extra innings, Healy stepped up to the plate. He took the first pitch which was a called strike and missed swinging on the second pitch of the at-bat. He took three straight balls from Colome and on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Healy took a 95 MPH fastball and launched it deep into left center field, thus winning the game for Oakland by the score of 4-3.
Healy’s homer was not the only exciting thing, although it may be his greatest moment thus far, that he’s done in his short time in the majors. After going hitless in his first big league appearance, Healy’s first hit in the big leagues came the next day in the form of a three-run home run off of Toronto’s knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. He ended up with two hits that day.
Since then Healy has been hot both at the plate and on defense. He’s made only one error in his nine games at the hot corner and has nine hits, five of which have been for extra bases, and seven RBI. It’s been quite a start. Not many players can say they’ve had that same kind of success in their first stint in the majors.
Healy is already drawing comparisons to Mark McGwire who debuted with the A’s in 1986, playing in 18 games all but one at the hot corner. Obviously he later transitioned into a first baseman but in those 18 games McGwire got 10 hits, four of which were for extra bases and drove in nine runs.
Healy has almost those same numbers in half the number of games McGwire played. McGwire went on to be the AL Rookie of the Year in 1987, breaking the AL rookie record for home runs hitting 49. He also was tied for the league lead in homers with Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Andre Dawson.
Physically Healy is like McGwire too. He’s 6’5” and 225 lbs, McGwire is 6’5” and was ten pounds lighter than Healy. Even if Healy never plays first base it’s hard not to compare him to McGwire. He’s got similar power and the same quick reflexes, similar size and age at their debuts, the A’s may have found their next McGwire. That may sound a little premature and crazy. Maybe it is but the numbers don’t lie.
Healy is already providing a spark that was desperately needed on this Athletics’ team. He was also part of Friday night’s walk off, getting a key double before Coco Crisp came up to plate him with a walk-off single in the 13th inning.
The A’s needed someone with youth, enthusiasm and talent. It appears that Healy is that player, at least so far. His reaction to his walk off home run Saturday night was priceless. When asked a question by broadcaster and former Athletic Ray Fosse, all he could say at first was, “I don’t even know where I am right now.” Healy was beyond happy to be hit in the face with two pies by right fielder Josh Reddick and have a cooler full of Gatorade dumped on his head.
As a spectator I think I’d say it was likely the greatest day of Healy’s life. The kid may be just what the A’s needed to turn this, so far, disappointing season around and even if they don’t quite make it to the postseason this year, it’s a guarantee that he’ll be there when they do in 2017.
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