After season-long wait, Kreidler family gets to see Ryan’s debut

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Mark Kreidler caught plenty of red-eye flights when he crossed the country covering Tony Gwynn and the Padres years ago, and again as a columnist in Northern California. So when he and his wife, Colleen, got a call from their son, Ryan, that the Tigers were calling him up for his Major League debut, Mark knew how to do a quick turnaround on little sleep for a big game.

Still, nothing from Kreidler’s previous life as a baseball writer could prepare him for the emotion of watching his son become a Major Leaguer.

There’s no cheering in the press box, but with seats behind home plate, Mark and the family could go nuts as Ryan walked twice and scored twice in Friday’s 5-4 win over the Royals. On the flip side, after years of spouting off opinions in print, on radio and on social media as a media member, he had a completely different position as a parent.

“A million unexpressed judgments,” he joked from the concourse at Comerica Park.

Still, one observation was clear: Ryan Kreidler gave the Tigers a well-received boost.

“He plays with a great energy,” manager A.J. Hinch said, “and we saw a lot of that tonight.”

Ryan was still feeling it after the game.

“Super fun, had a great time, great win, got the nerves out … somewhat,” he said. “I’ll still get nerves tomorrow and the next day, but it’s all good. Just really glad my family could be here.”

Much like Tigers fans, the Kreidlers had been anticipating this day all season. Ryan began the year at Triple-A Toledo, an hour’s drive from the big leagues. Then came a check-swing on an inside pitch that fractured a bone in his right hand, requiring surgery to insert a plate. Just as he was settled back in, a groin strain on a routine throw cost him another month.

While Ryan kept up a positive attitude, his parents could sense the frustration. Once he got back into an everyday routine at the plate two weeks ago, they could begin thinking about Detroit again. Ryan’s brother, Patrick, had a suitcase packed at his home in San Diego, ready in case Ryan got the call.

It came on FaceTime with his parents.

“It was so special, something you dream about since you were a kid,” Ryan said. “There’s only so much your parents can do for you, but my parents probably pushed to the limit as far as how much you can help a kid. I’m forever thankful for them for doing that.”

Though the family was in the stands Thursday afternoon just in case Ryan made his debut against the Mariners, Hinch gave the infielder the game off to rest up for Friday night. The extra day paid off.

Kreidler attacked the first pitch he saw as a big leaguer, a 93 mph sinker from Royals lefty Daniel Lynch, and scorched it back up the middle. The 101.3 mph line drive had a 73 percent hit probability according to Statcast, but it went right to shifted second baseman Michael Massey, who was drafted three picks before Kreidler in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft. Kreidler’s parents and brother all jumped when the ball left the bat, only to get knocked back to earth by the catch.

“I tried not to look at them,” Ryan said. “I didn’t know where they were sitting, didn’t really want to know, to be honest with you.”

Kreidler followed Willi Castro’s fifth-inning solo homer and fouled off a first-pitch fastball from Lynch before taking offspeed pitches the rest of the at-bat for a one-out walk. After Riley Greene’s walk moved him up, Kreidler deked Lynch into a balk when he broke for third base, putting him in position to score on a Victor Reyes sacrifice fly.

“I was trying to steal, and then he kind of froze,” Kreidler said. “I didn’t know if he was going to look back and get me, so I put on the brakes. I don’t think he really knew what was going on. They were yelling at him to step off. Kind of the luck of the draw there.”

Another walk, this time off hard-throwing reliever Carlos Hernández to lead off the seventh, put Kreidler on as the potential go-ahead run. A huge lead off second base sent him racing home to beat left fielder Kyle Isbel’s throw on Harold Castro’s pinch-hit single. The next inning, he started a double play in the shift to erase a leadoff baserunner for Will Vest.

It didn’t all go smoothly; Kreidler’s attempt at a safety squeeze bunt with runners at the corners in the eighth inning went foul before he struck out, missing out on an add-on run. Still, he’ll likely start the remaining two games of the series, possibly at different positions, as he shows his versatility around the infield and tries to stake a claim for next season’s roster.

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