I had an awesome back-to-back stretch on the phone Thursday morning.
First, I had a nice long conversation with Jim Crawford – only known in baseball circles as Crawdaddy. Crawdaddy had a long and storied career in the game – working side-by-side with the legendary Eddie Stanky for 18 years.
Crawdaddy then went on to scout for the Cubs for over 20 years – and one of the players he signed was Ryan Theriot.
I’ll be writing at length about Crawdaddy for my next story, including how the scout was first introduced to the young ballplayer.
As for The Riot, for those of you who are regular readers, you know I’ve been on a mission to track down players I worked with to talk about their playing days and find out what they’re up to now.
I interviewed Ryan for the piece on the scout who signed him, and then we talked about … well … Ryan Theriot.
Chuck: So, what are you up to now? You’re all over social media with your sports performance facility. What’s going on there in Baton Rouge?
Ryan Theriot: “It’s called Traction Sports. We train major league baseball players, minor league players, NBA, NFL, you name it. We have nine golfers on the PGA tour that train here and a few tennis players. It’s a huge sports performance facility – 29,000 square feet – and we have physical therapy attached. We have a youth baseball program … 7-on-7 football program … lacrosse program for the amateur players. It’s a true multi-sport facility. I bought part of this after I retired. It’s where I trained when I was playing. It’s been growing tremendously ever since. At the last NFL draft, 17 guys that are on an NFL roster right now trained here in preparation for the draft. I don’t know that there’s another facility in the country that has that many first-year guys. It’s a really thriving business and a lot of fun.”
Chuck: Are you involved in it 24/7?
Theriot: “Yes I am. I’m involved. I’m basically the general manager. I assist in all facets of the business. Baseball is my wheelhouse, but I’m not the baseball director. I don’t know if you remember Brad Cresse – he was a catcher here at LSU and played for the Diamondbacks organization for a few years – but Brad is our director of baseball. Chad Durbin, who was a longtime major leaguer, handles pitching. Ryan Clark, former NFL safety and ESPN analyst, is an owner as well and heads up the football division. So there’s a lot of expertise here. Pete Jenkins, who is a Hall of Fame NFL defensive line coach, is our defensive line instructor. Kevin Mawae, who is getting ready to be in the Hall of Fame, does offensive line. From a skills standpoint, I don’t know if there’s a place in America that has this many professionals that are here every day that are teaching. It’s a really unique situation. We’ve been blessed that there are as many guys with this much knowledge that are actually willing to be here and work. It’s pretty cool.”
Chuck: And you pretty much went straight there directly after winning a World Series in 2012.
Theriot: “When I was playing, toward the end of my career, I had some talks with the owner here about getting involved and some of the ideas I had to possibly help this place grow. It was an easy transition for me and it was something I knew that I was going to do. I just jumped into it, and the rest is history.”
Chuck: I think it’s great … You went out on your own terms and walked into a great situation. It made for a perfect transition.
Theriot: “It was. I knew it was time. My kids were getting a little bit older. I achieved everything in the game that I could have ever imagined that I would achieve, plus some. I was fortunate to play for some storied organizations. Obviously, Chicago – the club that drafted me and the club I spent the most time with. Then from Chicago to Los Angeles … who doesn’t want to play for the Dodgers? Then to St. Louis, where I played for maybe the greatest manager of all-time in Tony LaRussa. I was able to play there for a year and learn from him and win a World Series ring. And then … San Francisco. Bruce Bochy is going to be in the Hall of Fame as well, and I won a ring there. I couldn’t have asked for a better run there at the end. The stars just aligned and put me in a good spot. I got to play for Joe Torre … LaRussa … Bochy … Lou Piniella … Dusty Baker. Guys who were just great baseball men – and good people, to boot. You learned a lot from them.”
Chuck: With that kind of knowledge, do you want to eventually go into coaching?
Theriot: “I’ve had offers, and I’ve entertained the thought. Let me just say this … I would love to at some point, but right now is not that time for me. But I will. Right now, I’m coaching my son’s 10-year-old baseball team – and loving it. And dammit, these kids can play … (Laughing) … I tell them, ‘We’re not going to be the biggest, the strongest or the fastest – we’ll be a little bit like Coach Ryan – but we’re going to play hard.’ And that’s what they do. Coaching is something I see in my future at some point. Right now is not that time. But I’ll be out there some time coaching, I’m sure.”
Chuck: I figured out that your son is 10. How old are your daughters now?
Theriot: “9 and 7.”
Chuck: I remember so many times leaving the ballpark and seeing you and your wife pushing a stroller across the street from Wrigley Field – either by McDonald’s or down Addison Street by Taco Bell.
Theriot: “(Laughing) Yeah, we popped another one out every year. Johnnah was able to do some amazing things with those kids. You know, it’s not talked about enough … the wives, the families, what they go through and what they sacrifice for the players to have success. That stability and support system at home are super important. It’s really evident in a lot of guys who have that super support system – because they can play the game for a long time. They have success and they’re great teammates. Johnnah did a lot and was able to keep everything together. I’m trying to repay her as much as I can now. I bring the kids to school every day. I’m Mr. Mom.”
Chuck: What were your fondest memories of playing at Wrigley Field?
Theriot: “Midweek day games used to blow me away. I was amazed that so many people showed up for a Tuesday 1:20 game. The place was packed. The fan base in Chicago is unlike anywhere else. Talk about passion. They appreciated the small things of the game. You know, the things that I did well. I wasn’t going to hit a bunch of homers. But I played hard and gave 100 percent all the time. And truthfully, I got the most out of my ability – and they appreciated it. That fan base … the knowledge of the game in Chicago is different than anywhere else. The fans really get it. They understand the small things that make teams win. And I feel like they really appreciated it. So my fondest memory really would be the fans. It would be the fact that they were there every day and they understood the game.”
Chuck: And the broadcasters, too, dubbing you “The Riot.”
Theriot: “Ron Santo, first and foremost, was one of those guys … shoot, the stuff that man did for the Chicago Cubs organization. Broadcasters, top to bottom, it was amazing. It was an unbelievable time in my life. I was truly blessed and fortunate to spend as many years as I did with the Cubs organization.”
Chuck: You had a nice run with the team, including a couple trips to the postseason.
Theriot: “2007 and 2008 in Chicago were unbelievable. Those two seasons were magical. Obviously, they didn’t end up the way you wanted them to end up – but that’s how the playoffs go. We had to travel to the West Coast, which is never easy to do – those cross-country trips. I think if we didn’t travel as far, there would have been different outcomes. But there were close to 200 wins those two seasons. Those two years were awesome.”
Chuck: And then you topped it off winning World Series rings in 2011 and 2012.
Theriot: “I should have said this before. It was good that I left when I did – because I still had a love for the game. I’ll sit at home in the evenings before I go to bed all the time and watch the MLB Network for an hour just to catch up and see how everyone’s done that day. I’ve heard stories from guys about – when they were finished – they didn’t want anything to do with the game. And I couldn’t be any farther from that. It was perfect timing for me.”