Ryan Rowland-Smith is one of the most successful baseball talents to come out of Australia. He played five seasons of Major League Baseball and represented his country numerous times, including 2004 Athens Olympic Silver medals team. The Aussie left-hander has carved out 15 years of professional baseball with a wealth of knowledge and experience that can’t be matched many places in the world.
Growing up in Newcastle, New South Wales far from the bright lights of Major League baseball, Ryan came across video tapes of the 1993 World Series (Toronto vs Philly) and was instantly hooked. "I used to put in the video tapes and mimic everything the guys on TV were doing. I was obsessed. I could tell you every play, every line up of that entire World Series”
The silver lining was being at NSWIS working one-on-one with pitching coach Barry Holland. Holland was also a scout with the Seattle Mariners. He saw potential and after all the work Ryan put in, ultimately made an offer to sign with the Mariners. Ryan did not hesitate and said yes the next day. "I didn't have an agent negotiating, I didn't have a clue what I was in for, I knew that this will probably be the only offer I have, I'm jumping all over it.”
Being cut from those teams fueled the fire for an amazing work ethic. "When I signed with the Mariners, I was told, the coach who cut me from the state school boys team said I was too fat and lazy to make it, that just made me work even harder to make it to the big leagues, no better feeling than proving people wrong”
As he entered pro ball, the competition blew him away. The best players from all over the world were at Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona in a country obsessed with baseball. He had to grow up quick! "I was overwhelmed and intimidated, I had no one back in Australia prep me for this, my only option was to outwork everyone and learn from the best coaches as fast as I can” As he got acclimated he slowly worked his way up the minor league levels. Going from small town to small town he battled through the roller coaster that is minor league baseball. It wasn’t until six and half crazy years later he got the call! He was going to the big leagues. "I didn't sleep that night, my mind raced from when I was 12 fantasizing over playing Major League baseball, to what will I tell my family and friends on the phone. How do i word it, guess what, I'm going to the Big Leagues, It was a special moment and one I will never forget.”
"I went from being a guy with a plane ticket to go play rookie ball to stepping out in front of 45,000 fans at Safeco field. To make the call up even more special, Ryan's first hitter was none other than future Hall of Famer and future teammate Ken Griffey Jr. "I asked who was my first hitter, they said Griffey, the first thought was, I watched him on The Simpsons!" He went on to strike him out and was an unforgettable moment to launch his Major League career.
There has been many ups and downs in Ryan's 15 year career, from playing along side some of the greats in the game including Ken Griffey Jr, Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez, to spending years proving himself all over again to make the Arizona Diamondbacks opening day roster, that included the opening series in Sydney which was an amazing moment. “Walking out onto the SCG, my career had come full circle. The game is a spectacle in one country but takes a back seat in the country I grew up in, so to see a packed house in my backyard go crazy for baseball, was a special moment."
As his career continues, Ryan has a new passion for mentoring, inspiring, and coaching the next generation from his homeland. "The baseball community in Australia is a special one. Aussie players have their own identity and culture, but it's time for the kids of the next generation to have the coaching and knowledge from guys who came before them" "I want Nxtgen baseball to be the new standard in Australian baseball"