The Hippo


May 29, 2020








What are you really into right now?

Chasing around my 1-year-old son. Being a dad is something I’m really busy with right now.

Joining the team
Fisher Cats welcome new manager


First of all, can you tell us about yourself and where you’re from?

I grew up in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, which is central New Jersey right near Princeton, right near Trenton, the Yankees’ AA affiliate. And I’m one of three boys, the middle of three, and I went to high school there in Lawrenceville [and] college at the University of Delaware, was drafted by the New York Tigers in 2001 and ended up going to my last year of school and got drafted by the Blue Jays the following year in 2002. [I] played in the minor leagues all the way up through AAA, being a catcher, and retired in the spring of 2008 and got into the coaching gig and I’ve been with the Blue Jays ever since. So in 2002 until now, in some capacity, I’ve been with the Blue Jays.
When did you realize you wanted to play and get involved in professional baseball?
I knew I was pretty good in high school, especially junior and senior year [when] you get invited to some tryouts and showcases and things like that. I loved playing. I loved everything about baseball since I was a kid. And I think one of the really cool things was both my parents were supportive. They didn’t force it on me; they supported me because I enjoyed it so much. Both my brothers played. … I think once senior year of high school hit, it was pretty evident that I had a pretty good chance to keep playing at a higher level.
I understand you were a catcher for the Fisher Cats about 10 years ago. What was that experience like?
It was a great city, great affiliate for me as a player. I remember the city being great. As players and as staff members, you kind of relate to the stadium, the crowd, the atmosphere, clubhouse, all that kind of stuff. … I think once you get to AA and AAA, you’re getting close to your ultimate goal, so it was a fun time in my career when I was there.
What have you been doing since then?
I came into spring training 2008 as a player and I left spring training 2008 as a coach. So that year, I stayed in rookie ball working with the catchers down there at that level. Then, the following year, 2009, I got my first managing job and that was in the Gulf Coast League. And then I did that level again in 2010. In 2011, I went up to the Northwest League in Vancouver. And then ’12 and ’13, back to the Gulf Coast League. Then, ’14 and ’15, back to Vancouver — this is all managing — and then 2016, to the Midwest League in Lansing, Michigan. [In] 2017, Florida State League … and this coming year, I’ll be up there with you guys. So I’ve kind of been all over the place.
What was the impetus behind your transition from playing to coaching and ultimately managing?
I think every player kind of understands when the time is right. For me, it was a combination of injuries, concussions, a couple surgeries that I had on my back, and just the fact that I was OK with the fact that if I didn’t make it, I didn’t make it. Some guys are good enough, some guys are maybe not quite good enough. So I was OK with the fact that I never made it. I wouldn’t change anything about my career, playing-wise, but I think it kind of led me to where I am now in a managerial standpoint. … Being around people and being around players and trying to affect them in a positive way is something I try to do as a player and that’s obviously a big part of what I do now as a manager. So it was a relatively easy transition for me.
Do you think you’ll be able to relate with the players better or have any other advantages from being a young manager?
I think that’s a huge advantage when you’re quote-unquote “younger,” you can relate to the players and what they’re going through because I’ve been in their shoes not that long ago. So I think it’s easier for them to relate to me and me to relate to them. 
— Ryan Lessard 

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