Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Definition of Grinder 

grinder: noun grind`er

  1. molar (teeth)
  2. one that grinds
  3. a machine or device for grinding
  4. an athlete who succeeds through hard work and determination rather than exceptional skill

It’s about 6:15 at Rider Field in Frisco and game time is 7:05. Above the bench there is a Gatorade towel laid out with a hat, sunglasses, sunflower seeds and two pieces of gum. That’s the daily routine of Roughrider infielder Ryan Dorow. “It’s not really superstition, I just like to have all my stuff ready for the game”.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa has forged a path to the big leagues for players like Dorow. Kiner-Falefa was never a top 30 prospect or even a starter at any level coming up through the minor leagues. What he was, was a grinder. A guy who could play multiple positions, stayed healthy and had good instincts for the game. He didn’t have flashy numbers but continued to improve and move up a level each season. This a pretty good description of a current Ranger minor league “grinder”. In fact, Ryan Dorow has put up very comparable minor league numbers with more power so far.

Let’s look at their minor league numbers.

Isiah Kiner-Falefas 7 seasons: 489 Games: 1084 At Bats: .274/.344/.334 Slash Line with 7 HR’s

Ryan Dorow 4 seasons (so far):  289 Games: 995 At Bats: .261/.350/.394 Slash Line with 24 HR’s

Both players have played multiple positions with SS being their primary spot when drafted. They have also been willing to try new things in an effort to help out the club. Kiner-Falefa tried catching which was something he had never done. Dorow pitched 3 innings of relief for Frisco to help out the bull pen. I asked Dorow if someone like IKF helps out someone like him. “Yeah……..I think it helps me personally. He’s a heck of a player and you know he obviously hasn’t had the easiest route here. But he has worked his tail off and everyone in the organization looks at his worth ethic and looks to model it. He definitely has earned everything he has got, being so successful in the big leagues”. 

Photo: Heath Criswell Prospect Times (Ryan Dorow pitching for Frisco) 

I first became aware of Ryan Dorow in June of 2018 in Charleston, WV. The West Virginia Power hosted the Hickory Crawdads who were the Low A club for Texas Rangers. My wife Kathy and I were there to see Rangers top prospects like Bubba Thompson, Tyler Phillips and Sam Huff.  The guy playing second base that night was the one who caught my eye. he had a couple of hits and carried himself like the leader on the team. He even got into an argument with an umpire over a blown call at second base. He didn’t get tossed out, but he let the ump know that he missed it. Yep……Ryan Dorow was a name I was going to watch going forward. He ended up on an episode of the podcast that season and we talked about his life growing up and his future wife Macy.

Ryan Dorow grew up in South Haven, Michigan. Located in the southwest corner of the state, South Haven is a small town of about 4500 on the banks of Lake Michigan. A three sport athlete, Dorow chose to go to Division III Adrian College, in Adrian, MI to play baseball . Although other schools showed interest, Adrian was always top of mind; especially since Ryan’s dad Jon was college roommates with Head Coach Craig Rainey. In fact Ryan’s adopted sister Mallory is a middle blocker for the Bulldog Volleyball team. I asked Rainey if that relationship helped him find Ryan. “Ryan was very well known in the travel baseball circuit, he played for a very good team both in high school and in summer baseball. Ryan was a very highly recruited player and had multiple offers to play in college. Even though he was kind of on the other side of the state from us, everyone in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana recruited him”. What kind of a player was he? “Ryan is a great leader and a guy that does it more by his play and work ethic than his talk. He is a great competitor and a tremendous worker. He has the ability to get players to follow him on the field with his outstanding effort”. When did you think Ryan had a chance to go to the next level? “I thought after his Sophomore year when he started to really get stronger, he had a chance to play at the next level. He always had great baseball skills, he just needed to grow into his body a bit and get into the weight room”. 

Ryan Dorow at Adrian College 

A late bloomer, Ryan was 5’7 when he entered his freshman year at Adrian. By the time his sophomore year rolled around he had grown five inches to 6 ft. During his freshman year, Dorow noticed a sophomore infielder on the women’s softball team, Macy Laws. Now Macy Dorow and about 9 months pregnant, she talked about meeting Ryan. “Ryan and I met at Adrian College, I was a sophomore, he was a freshman. Baseball and softball always seemed to be hanging out on the weekends or doing a lot of volunteer work together in the fall. We met pretty early in Ryan’s freshman year”. Where did he take you on your first date? “Our first date was to good old Olive Garden”. Did you know pretty soon he was the one? “I would say yes. Ryan is extremely selfless and that is tough to find, especially at that age. He and I are complete opposites but I think that’s what drew us together and makes us work so well. We had a ton of fun together and it was easy from the start. It didn’t take long for us to be serious about one another”.

Dorow was a  three time All American for the Bulldogs. Texas Ranger Area Scout for Michigan and Ohio, Chris Collias, was the one who discovered him. “I first saw Ryan play when he was a senior at Adrian College. I first heard about him from a former scout turned advisor (agent) who saw him play for the Battle Creek Bombers in the Northwoods League, which is a respected summer collegiate wood bat league in the Midwest”. What made you want to draft Ryan? “After I heard about him, I started doing some digging and talked with his Northwoods League coach and he was certain Ryan could play the game. He liked his bat, his instincts, and his work ethic. Then I saw him a few times his senior year and every time I was there it became apparent that he could hit, make plays in the field, and had a strong arm. It was also evident that he had instincts to play the game. He played with energy and genuinely loves to compete every day. And as I learned more about him as a person and his story, I liked him even more. He was under recruited out of high school, and he had a chip on his shoulder. There was no doubt he was going to be willing to do what it took to achieve his dreams and prove people wrong along the way!” 

Collias must have made an impression with his scouting reports. The Texas Rangers selected Ryan in the 30th round of the 2017 draft. I asked Dorow where he was when he got drafted. “I was at my house when I found out I was drafted. I was watching all the picks on the computer when I  went to get Gatorade. My dad was burning leaves or something in the back yard when he started yelling. I thought he fell in the fire or something bad had happened. He showed me his phone and the Rangers had picked me”. I asked Chris the same thing. I wanted to know if he was worried someone else might take Dorow. I knew the Red Sox had some interest, and were there to see him a couple times. I was getting a little antsy, but I didn’t know if we were going to take him anyway. The decision-makers knew I liked him, but it’s still not up to the area scout at the end of the day. I was at an event for the next year’s draft and was following the last few rounds on Twitter all day. Later that day, I got a few texts in succession from people saying we took Ryan in the 30th. He was the first guy I’d have the chance to sign and I was so happy for him because he was able to keep pursuing his dreams!” What is Ryan’s ceiling in this game? Major League Utility guy? Starter? etc…… “That’s up to Ryan! He’s exceeded all expectations so far, so we’ll just have to wait and see!”  Has anyone in the organization talked about him? “Two years ago we had fall meetings in Arizona. Our Field Coordinator at the time was Corey Ragsdale. I had a chance to ask him about Ryan, and see if what he was doing was real”.  Ragsdale said, “Ryan has opened a lot of eyes, he can hit a little bit, he’s got instincts, he can play all over the field, the ball sticks in his glove, and he’s got a good arm with accuracy. He’s got a chance”. 

For a player like Dorow, the pandemic was really tough. Going into 2020, there were a lot a players who were set to break out and hopefully solidify their place within the Rangers system. Instead they were forced to their offseason homes to sit and wait. I asked Ryan how the pandemic affected him. “The hardest thing for me and Macy was being somewhat locked up there for a little bit. Obviously we were both not doing what we are normally primed to do. Us being busy bodies it was tough in that aspect of it. But, everyone else was doing it also. It was good to have some chill time also. Time that me and Macy don’t normally get”. I asked Macy the same question. “The pandemic was definitely weird for us, but also had its positives. The year of 2020 was the most uninterrupted time Ryan and I have spent together in our 6.5 years as a couple. That was a huge plus for us, especially only months after being newly married. Now a whole year without baseball was tough. There were plenty of times I just knew how bad Ryan was itching to play and I hated not being able to watch him play the game he loves”. 

 

Ryan and Macy Wedding Photo 

In October of 2019, Ryan and Macy got married and started their life together. I asked Macy, being the wife of a minor league baseball player, what it was like during those first years of his career. “During the season, I kept pretty busy. I was fortunate enough for the last 4 years to travel for work so I kept plenty busy and it also gave me the ability to visit Ryan more often than most wives and girlfriends. We’ve been extremely lucky so far. This year looks a little different but I’m still able to keep plenty busy with my new career; less travel but a lot to learn. It’s never easy to be apart but we’ve found what works for us and make it happen each year no matter what team he ends up on”. Tell me about your career. “I work in sales and have newly found myself in the insurance business as a sales agent”. Where do you two live in the offseason? “We have lived a couple different places, Atlanta, GA, Raleigh, NC and now have made our way back to our home state of Michigan during the pandemic”. 

Macy Dorow with (baby Dorow)

Riley Dorow is on the verge of making his appearance in the world. Seeing how both Ryan and Macy were college infielders, I wanted to know if both mom and dad would be helping him with his exchange and footwork when little league starts. Macy said, “We’re so excited for a little boy and hope that he loves baseball as much as we both do. Ryan and I have had plenty of conversations about which attributes we hope he takes from us both on the ball field”. So what’s the plan? Are you going to induce or is Ryan waiting on labor before jetting back to Michigan? As of right now it’s all in the hands of baby Dorow and when he decides to make his appearance. We will notify Ryan as soon as I go into labor and he’ll be in the mad dash to get back to Michigan whether he’s on the field or trying to catch some zzz’s. Induction is definitely an option we’ve discussed with our healthcare provider but unless necessary it’s something we’re trying to avoid”. I asked Ryan if the organization gave a timeline on maternity for him. “Yes, whether I go try to time it out or get a call to rush back, I get a week to kind of chill out at home not try and rush back. It’s great on their end to give a week to sort of chill out and have some family time before continuing the rest of the season”. 

The future of Ryan Dorow isn’t set yet. Is he a future big leaguer? He certainly can be, but only time will tell. Does he have a future in the game after he hangs up his spikes? I asked his college coach and the scout that signed him.

Adrian College Coach Craig Rainey: “I think Ryan will be a great coach, if that is the path he chooses to take. He understands the game, communicates it well to other players and has the insight of what you need to do to be successful. I think the one thing that will serve him well in the coaching world is he is a “grinder”. He isn’t afraid to work and put in the extra time. If he decides to coach, the coaching world will be lucky and better because of him”. 

Rangers Area Scout Chris Collias: “Yes. The game is better with him in it. He’s told me he’s wanted to coach, possibly at his alma mater. But, wherever he ends up, he’s going to be successful because he’s got high character. He’s smart, tough, and willing work to achieve his goals”. 

The toughest question for any player, is what they plan do after they stop playing. What are your plans after baseball? “Hopefully that’s down the road here a little bit. I would love to get into coaching, especially at the collegiate level. I still go back and do some things back there at Adrian. Try to help out and share some words of wisdom for the young men coming up”. Has being a scout ever intrigued you? “Yeah, that’s something I would be interested in. Honestly anything to do with baseball I would be down for”.

Life after baseball isn’t a pressing thought for Dorow right now. He continues to grind it out every day, helping his team win in anyway possible. Ryan Dorow wants to play in the major leagues. He has the grit and determination to achieve that goal. If they were the only deciding factors, he would spend a lot of years in the big leagues. Rooting for a guy like Ryan Dorow is why I love baseball.

Nerd Out!

Featured Image: Heath Criswell The Prospect Times

 

 

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