Over the last several years, the Yankees have aggressively targeted talented coaches from the college ranks to work in their minor league system. These coaches have taken on the player development role for an organization known for its high ceiling but young talent. Ryan Hunt was hired by the organization after just one season of college coaching at the University of Charleston (W.V.). Ryan recently took the time to talk with Pinstripe Alley about a variety of topics including his path to the organization.
Hired at just 23-years-old, Ryan Hunt entered the Yankees system from a winning program at the Division II level. He was hired at the same time as the University of Charleston Head Coach he had played with and coached alongside, Andrew Wright. Wright has played a big role in Hunt’s development as a player and coach and is now the Director of Baseball Operations for the Yankees’ academy in the Dominican Republic.
“He’s the type of person who’s impact on your life spans more than one dimension,” Hunt said. “He extracts the best out of everyone around him, and he does so while impacting you personally and professionally. The college time period is a tipping point in many people’s lives, and he facilitated my growth in every regard. I was incredibly fortunate to spend four years with him at Charleston. And now, as he leads the Yankees’ baseball operation in the Dominican Republic, building upon the great work done by Mario Garza, I’m excited to see the development of the players who progress through our organization after spending valuable time at our academy.”
Prior to his senior year of college, Hunt knew he would be joining the coaching staff and pursued his MBA the following year. His transition to the professional ranks would come together in a much shorter time-frame.
“I was hired right after the college season... on June 19th and I was in Pulaski on June 24th,” Hunt said. “I was there the entire season, which was pretty cool because we had a fun group of guys. The coaching staff was great. My first game with the Yankees happened to be the first game for several of our draft picks including, [2019 first round pick] Anthony Volpe.”
Faced with the challenge of entering the professional ranks for the first time and coaching players who were nearly his own age, Hunt leaned on the experienced coordinators and coaches for guidance and advice.
“Across the board, I received an overwhelming welcoming from everybody inside the organization,” Hunt said. “It was humbling because, in a matter of days, I went from reading about these influential personalities in the world of player development in ‘The MVP Machine’ — guys like Dillon Lawson, Sam Briend, Desi Druschel — to joining the organization that had recently hired them. It soon became apparent that our Played Development department was filled with many other elite teachers and technicians. I’m grateful for the chance to work with, and learn from, Miguel Cairo in my first year with the organization. Having the opportunity to hear his perspective of the game, while soaking up the stories he shared from his successful career, will stick with me for years to come. Travis Chapman, who is now our acting infield coordinator, also went out of his way to help me early on.”
Hunt arrived to coach a very talented Pulaski team that was already on its way to posting the best winning percentage of any team in the Yankees minor league system in 2019.
“It was an exciting and unique experience,” Hunt said. “Exciting in a sense that the players made my job incredibly fun on a daily basis. The group was talented, and they possessed quite a bit of upside on the field. They were starting to figure out how to be the captains of their careers and the drivers of their development. They could also, with ease, make your stomach hurt from laughing at their jokes and dancing in the clubhouse. The experience in Pulaski was unique as my first game in pinstripes was the 4th or 5th for the team. The situation felt similar to the transition time that medical personnel utilize between shifts where the individual clocking out is tasked with passing the baton to the staff member clocking in by effectively communicating where the patients are at on their health journeys, where they need to get to in the short-term, and how we plan on getting them there. As much as I was attempting to facilitate each player’s growth, the players themselves injected Red Bull into my veins and facilitated my growth.”
In addition to his defensive coaching duties, Hunt’s baserunning duties put him in touch with the Yankees new baserunning coordinator Matt Talarico. Talarico’s baserunning techniques gained notoriety when his teams at Wright State began compiling prolific stolen base numbers.
“Matt is one of the main contributors to the evolution of base running in the baseball community,” Hunt said. “The system he is instilling in the organization is rooted in the desire to score more runs while removing the risks typically associated with running the bases. We feel strongly that the current state of the game provides openings for our players to exploit. It really comes down to equipping players with the tools necessary to take advantage of these openings.”
As to what the system might look like for Yankees fans attending a minor league game?
“We are in year two of implementing his system,” Hunt said. “His system while its different than what traditional baserunning looks like in professional baseball its not too far off from what we’ve seen players like Rickey Henderson and other athletes do on the bases... His system is really designed to use the athleticism that our players have... so that we can hopefully get around the bases quicker and ultimately aid the offense.”
Prior to the 2020 minor league season being cancelled, a rule change was put in place for the lower minors that would have eliminated the left-handed “balk move” made famous by pitchers like Andy Pettitte over the years for picking runners off. The baserunning coaches took notice of the announcement and were very excited.
“We were all just sitting in the office, we had just come off the field and we saw the announcement of that rule,” Hunt said. “We were sitting there just salivating, saying this is just another opportunity for us to exploit and attack... Certainly its going to impact the landscape of baserunning and hopefully we can take advantage of that.”
When asked what prospect or prospects will stand out on the defensive side of the ball, Hunt named one of the Yankees who shot up the prospect ranking boards in 2019.
“I think we have quite a few candidates to answer that question on the defensive side of the ball,” Hunt said. “My mind instantly goes to Oswald Peraza, he was recently added to the 40-man. I think its going to be exciting for the rest of our organization to see Oswald and for our fans. We are really excited about what he can do defensively and the value he can provide as he continues to develop.”
When asked about a baserunner who has the potential to stand out in the near future, Hunt was very optimistic about the organizations outlook as a whole.
“On the baserunning side I wish I could give you a name or two,” said Hunt. “We’ve started to play around with it and see the results in inter-squads against ourselves, but are excited to see the early results in spring training 2021. We are really growing this thing from the ground up… and excited for guys like Jasson Dominguez to be able use his athleticism on the bases.”
Ryan Hunt has yet to receive his organizational assignment for this coming year. He expects to be continuing his work on defense and baserunning when the minor leagues return to action in the late-spring or early-summer.