1st of Jul | Story

Utility player


AUGUSTA, Georgia | David Ryther Jr. won’t make interns do anything he hasn’t done.

What he doesn’t tell them is he has done everything.

Well, almost everything.

Ryther interned in stadium operations a decade ago for the Norfolk Tides, completing the rite of passage that opens opportunities in minor league baseball. Since then, he has worked a season in the Arizona Fall League and 10 more with the Augusta GreenJackets, where his responsibilities have included corporate sales, ticket sales, stadium ops, providing a home as a host family, occasional bat boy, ball boy and public address announcer and, now, the visiting clubhouse manager. One of the few positions he hasn’t held is general manager and, frankly, that doesn’t interest him.

“I got into it, and then I really didn’t want to do anything else. I like it. I don’t want to leave it. It became a full-on obsession, then it became a reality, and I think it’s a pretty cool job.” – Augusta GreenJackets visiting clubhouse manager David Ryther Jr.

“There isn’t a whole lot that I really haven’t done in baseball,” he says.

That’s the attitude you need to keep a job in the game.

Ryther grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan, a resort town on the great lake that bears the state’s name. He excelled at both baseball and football but always felt a greater connection to the diamond. Baseball games provided bonding time with his father, a man for whom he stills holds such high respect that he makes certain everybody knows his own name ends with a “Jr.” David Ryther Sr. died more than a decade ago of lung cancer, but Ryther always wanted to pass along those memories with his father and the love for the game to his own children. He started by naming his daughter – his only child – Seattle, after the home city of his favorite team, the Mariners.

Nowadays, it’s less about the game and more about the atmosphere. Ryther finds the lifestyle and the air of the game intoxicating.

“I got into it, and then I really didn’t want to do anything else,” he says. “I like it. I don’t want to leave it. It became a full-on obsession, then it became a reality, and I think it’s a pretty cool job.”

Ryther left Augusta at the end of last season to work for Ripken Baseball, the company headed by Cal Ripken Jr. and Billy Ripken and the ownership group of the GreenJackets, in its camps and clinics. He traveled to Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, teaching kids the basics of baseball. Then Augusta’s warm weather, slow pace and proximity to his daughter in Virginia Beach lured him back – the same reasons that attracted him to the city when he had to decide between the GreenJackets and the South Bend Silver Hawks for his first full-time position in the minors. Plus he landed a position as an assistant coach with Augusta State University baseball.

After nearly a decade of making structural repairs and changes to Lake Olmstead Stadium, Ryther added a new title to his list of minor league positions this season when he took control of the visitor’s clubhouse.

“In a way, it’s better than the stadium ops job, because it’s only 70 games a season,” he says about washing, drying and folding laundry and feeding the South Atlantic League teams that roll through Augusta. “If there’s not a game there, I don’t have to go to work, which is nice. I get to meet a lot of different people, different players, coaches. Now that I’m coaching, a lot of them will sit and talk with me about coaching styles, what they do, different drills. It’s pretty much what I thought being around it, you just kind of saw it from the outside.”

Ryther hasn’t consciously stayed with the GreenJackets all these years. While serving six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, then earning a sports management degree and completing an internship with the Tides, he thought he would move up to work in the Majors. He ran his own show as director of stadium ops and built rapport. He did more than he needed to move up.

He looked at other openings in the minors. Nothing appealed to him. “I didn’t want to leave to go some place else and try to start over when I liked it here,” he says. “The grass isn’t always greener.”

Ryther fully intends to be back in the visiting clubhouse at Lake Olmstead Stadium next season, making Augusta a spot where players and coaches want to return. The job is more time-consuming and tiring than any other he has had in the minors. More than once, he has slept on a couch in the clubhouse instead of driving the five minutes home.

It’s one more job, though, that has kept him in the game he loves.

“It’s just one more thing that I’ve learned and got to experience,” he says. “The only bad thing about it is I don’t like mopping the bathroom floor.”

Carolyn@AMinorLeagueSeason.com ♦ @CarolynLaWell ♦ @AMinorLgSeason 

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