How Ryan Aguilar revived his baseball career with Angels

When outfielder Ryan Aguilar made his major league debut for the Angels Friday night, he did so as more than just another minor league man getting his first break.

Aguilar, 27, was the youngest of three brothers growing up as an Angels fan in a Yorba Linda house overlooking the top of the Big A at Angel Stadium.

Ryan’s mom, Kristi, said he was “pretty much born on a baseball field” because siblings Shane and Michael played travel ball.

“Ryan was basically her little gofer boy,” Kristi said, “who ran around, fucked balls, ran the bases, got balls for the big brothers, and he just learned the game very, very young.”

He started playing baseball when he was about 4½ years old. His first team was with the Yorba Hills Little League at Bryant Ranch and he started playing travelball at a young age.

“I remember when Ryan wanted to try for a travel ball,” Kristi said of a 7-year-old Ryan trying for Yorba Linda for a Little Leaguers team. “The coach says, ‘Well, you know, this is an 8-year-old and older travel ball team.’ I said, ‘Ryan will be 8 years old on September 11th. Can you give him a chance?’ He says: ‘We’ll give him a chance, but there’s no guarantee.’ So Ryan tried it. We weren’t even in the driveway when we got a call saying, ‘We want your son.’ ”

Aguilar always seemed short compared to his peers, but this never discouraged him or his family.

“His dad and I used to tell him, ‘Leave your name on the field, you’re Ryan Aguilar,'” Kristi said of the advice she still gives Ryan to this day.

Aguilar played at Esperanza High and Santa Ana College before playing for the University of Arizona. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 31st round of the 2016 MLB amateur draft and floated around in their minor league system until August 2021 when he was released.

“It was very heartbreaking,” Kristi recalled. “Ryan felt like it was coming based on his numbers. … It hit him really hard, and he went through a bit of a depression because Ryan has only played baseball his entire life.”

Aguilar didn’t want to talk about his situation after he returned, so Kristi and her husband Eric gave him time and space to come to terms with it.

“He came home after a few months, and we didn’t really say anything about it,” she said. “We’ll let him think about it himself and talk to his agent [Matt Gaeta]. His agent just said, ‘Ryan, do you love the game?’ and Ryan says, “I do. I still have it in me. I know I can play this game.”

Aguilar went to work and planned to play for an independent league, but then the Angels called.

“Ryan came home and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to be an angel,'” Kristi said. Still reeling from being circumcised by the Brewers, Aguilar didn’t want to celebrate until all paperwork was signed, which happened days before Christmas.

“Everything was just right, and now look at him,” said his mother.

The Aguilars didn’t get to see Ryan in person during his MLB debut in Toronto on Friday. Ryan – who was with the Rocket City Trash Pandas, the Angels’ Double-A affiliate in Madison, Ala. — was ordered to join the big league club on Tuesday while the Angels were in Tampa Bay for a series against the Rays. Kristi and Eric headed to St. Petersburg, Fla., believing his debut would be against the Rays.

When he was officially called up on Friday, day one of the Angels series in Toronto, the Aguilars were shocked. Neither of them had brought their passports and, moreover, Kristi’s passport had expired.

Angels outfielders Ryan Aguilar, Mike Trout and Magneuris Sierra celebrate after beating the Toronto Blue Jays.

Angels outfielders, from left, Ryan Aguilar, Mike Trout and Magneuris Sierra celebrate after a win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

(Jon Blacker/Associated Press)

They returned to Orange County on Friday and watched Ryan make his television debut. He made his first recording appearance, which came as no surprise to anyone in the Aguilar household.

“We both looked at each other, my husband raised his fist in the air,” Kristi recalled. “[On TV] They said, “Yeah, he went for a walk,” and I said, “Just like the Trash Pandas, you’re on the base. There goes your on-base percentage.’”

Ryan had a .944 on-base plus slugging percentage in 88 games in Double A. He went 0 to 2 on Friday with two walks and two runs scored.

That night, the Aguilars were able to secure a flight for Eric to Buffalo, NY, where he could rent a car and drive to Toronto to see the rest of Ryan’s debut series. Aguilar started all three games in right field in place of Taylor Ward, who was one of three players banned prior to the series. (People who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine or they will not be able to enter Canada.)

Eric watched his son score his first MLB hit on Saturday – a double that Ryan tried unsuccessfully to turn into a treble – whose reaction was caught live on camera on Bally Sports West. Aguilar went one-for-four on Saturday and one-for-five on Sunday as the Angels wrapped up a three-game sweep with an 8-3 win.

The Aguilars are hoping Ryan can stay with the Angels, who play the New York Yankees Monday night to open a nine-game homestand.

“I think the whole town of Yorba Linda knows about Ryan right now,” Kristi said. “It’s crazy.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2022-08-28/ryan-aguilar-angels-baseball-career-revival How Ryan Aguilar revived his baseball career with Angels

Emma Bowman

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