Photo Credit: Union Leader
A week ago, New Hampshire was a familiar spot for one former member of the Boston Red Sox. Despite not playing under the lights of Northeast Delta Dental Stadium for more than half decade, Ryan Lavarnway said something felt like being back home.
“It’s been great being back in New England,” said Lavarnway. “When I got off the plane the other day, it definitely smelled familiar. I could tell the air is just a little bit different up here.”
Lavarnway, previously a top prospect with the Red Sox, has also seen big league time with Baltimore and Atlanta. He was released by the Braves in early May after hitting .276/.336/.357 with ten RBI with Triple A Gwinnett. The Toronto Blue Jays were the first team to show interest in the catcher, and now Lavarnway has the goal of returning to the majors.
“Toronto was the first team to show interest,” Lavarnway said. “I was hoping to hear from more teams than I ended up hearing from. I was glad to get the offer from the Blue Jays, and ultimately that’s why I’m here.”
Lavarnway has had plenty of success in the minor leagues, with 101 career home runs including one season of 32 bombs, his career-high and his peak as a top prospect. With over 100 games played at the major league level already, his goal is to make it back to the major leagues.
“I feel like there’s a lot of things I can do to help the younger guys kind of mature in the game at the same time where I am trying to establish myself or get to where I want to be, which is in the big leagues.”
At 28 years old, Lavarnway is one of the veterans on the Fisher Cats roster. Being a catcher, his presence can help with the younger pitchers, but also position players as they try to navigate their lives in pro baseball.
“I definitely feel like I can be useful for the younger players,” he said. “Just helping them understand, and relating to them the things I have gone through and the things I have seen. And the things they are going through now, because as players there are a lot of things that we experience very similarly, or there are a lot of things where we are unsure that other people have gone through or that we don’t want to admit.”
In six games played so far in Manchester, Lavarnway has hit .250 with a .444 OBP and .744 OPS. He has doubled and driven in two runs in 20 at bats so far, walking seven times with four strikeouts and even a stolen base.
Lavarnway played in 27 games with the Braves last season, hitting .227 after a .107 showing in ten contests with the Orioles. His best major league showing came in 2013 when he played in 25 games, hitting .299 with a .329 OBP with a home run and 14 RBIs.
At the Double A level, the goal now is just finding that right approach and consistency to make it back.
“I feel pretty good, like I am seeing the ball well, and everyone on the coaching staff is helpful so far and I’m really enjoying being here.
“I think it’s just being consistent,” Lavarnway said. “I’ve had stretches where I’ve hit really well, I’ve had stretches where I played great defense, just putting it all together on a consistent basis is the biggest thing.”