Mark Kreidler made a living putting Tony Gwynn’s career into words, pinpointing moments when talent and greatness come into focus, and how teams find that next great player. But even he was caught searching for words when he realized his son might have a baseball career of his own.
Years ago, as Kreidler and his family were watching Ryan have fun at a baseball camp at the University of California, they were grateful to have received an invitation from one of the coaches. Ryan was preparing to begin high school, and had been playing summer ball.
“He was really excited about it,” Mark recalled, “but when we got there, one of the coaches suddenly took us out on a campus tour. And I felt a little bit dumb in retrospect. We just thought [they believed] that kid would be fun to have in camp. We just didn’t clue in. That’s a kid in eighth grade getting ready for ninth.”
A year after that, the Kreidlers had another campus visit, to UCLA. This time, Ryan received a scholarship offer — before his sophomore season.
“As a beat writer and then as a columnist, I’m skimming along the treetops. I’m writing NBA, MLB. I’m not down in the weeds. So everything was a revelation,” Mark admitted. “I’m like, ‘You’re offering him a scholarship now?’ They were ahead of other people. But we got over our shock, because all of a sudden he was getting lots and lots of offers.”
Eight years later, Mark and Colleen Kreidler were sitting in the stands in Erie, Pa., watching Ryan play shortstop for the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate in his first full season of pro ball. Riley Greene, MLB Pipeline’s No. 15 overall prospect, bats leadoff for the SeaWolves. Ryan Kreidler, the Detroit’s No. 21 prospect, bats right behind him.
The player development process Kreidler used to cover from the press box hit home.
“We feel lucky that we really have gotten to see him at every single stage,” Mark said. “This is another stage. You get there in person and you realize a couple things really fast. One is that everybody at Double-A is really good. They can get ripped up by prospect writers, but they’re so good, so skilled to get to that level. Pitchers may not always know where it’s going, but they’ve got stuff. And we were there in a week when [Ryan] struggled mightily because he went through a couple rough days.
“You feel for your son every time he’s struggling. I got on a plane thinking he’s at the right level. As a parent, it’s all good. I’ll squirm through his at-bats just like anybody else. But it’s all good, all positive. The Tigers gave him a challenge because he could meet the challenge.”
Though Major League Baseball has many stories of sons of players, sons of writers are rare. David Newhan, son of longtime Dodgers writer Ross Newhan, played eight years in the Majors and went on to coach, including with the Tigers. Rio Gomez, son of the late Pedro Gomez, is a prospect in the Red Sox system.
Sons of ball writers don’t have the same connections that sons of ballplayers do. Besides the obvious differences in athleticism — Mark credits his wife’s family in Ryan’s case — they don’t grow up around the clubhouse, tag along on the field during batting practice or get tips from the best players in the world.
What Ryan really got from his dad was a passion for sports.
“The stuff that I could share about Tony was more his work ethic,” Mark said, “because I cannot share a hitting tip from Tony. There’s going to be something tragically lost in translation. Tony’s the guy who went and hit 200 baseballs when he was on a 15-game hit streak. This is what it takes to be great, let alone good.
“At some point as a dad, if you’re self-aware, you realize you can’t teach him any more. And that was around eighth grade [for me].”
Mark was a columnist in Sacramento, Calif., when Ryan was born. But even as he made his living in press boxes, he and Colleen made a point to go to games as fans with their kids, so they could share the experience. Ryan was a multi-sport star and played high school basketball against fellow Tigers prospect Matt Manning, but he fittingly gravitated toward baseball, following in the footsteps of his older brother Pat.
Mark eventually moved into online writing, radio and books so he could see his kids through their own careers.
Once Ryan received attention from Pac-12 schools, Mark realized the family was in for a journey. He and Colleen followed Ryan throughout his college career at UCLA, driving down every weekend to watch him play. They were there when the Tigers picked their son in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft.
“My dad exposed me to different walks of life, different people,” Ryan said. “And he has endless stories, just like you guys do. He’s met them all, you know, all sorts of different countries, experiences.”
“Be the smarter shortstop,” Mark said. “If there was anything I did have in experience that helped, it was that.”
And yes, Mark passed along interviewing skills, too.
“I would say I think I got a leg up on the competition when it comes to media relations and things like that,” Ryan said.
That came in handy when Kreidler’s Spring Training appearances in the Grapefruit League opened eyes and bumped him up the Tigers’ farm system, bypassing both Class A levels. With the club searching for a long-term answer at shortstop, the dream of Ryan playing in Detroit is real, and maybe not that distant.
Mark just wanted athletics to be a part of his kids’ lives. He never dreamed it could become his son’s livelihood.
“It’s definitely been a journey,” he said. “And believe me, if I could figure out a way to take credit for this, I would’ve. I’m still not 100 percent sure what being a baseball writer did for Ryan.”