Ryan Strieby is one for winning awards, and through the first 11 games of the season, he was a favorite for Ducks MVP. The 28-year-old, who was the minor-league player of the year in the Tigers’ organization in 2008 and a first-team All-American and SEC player of the year at the University of Kentucky in 2006, hit .359 with a .444 on-base percentage and six multiple-hit games in those 11 games. But Strieby then suffered a wrist injury and didn’t return until Aug. 2.
What has your road back from injury been like?
It’s been a crazy year, really. At first they told me I’d be out four to six weeks, so they sent me home. But there are certain phases you have to get through when you’re coming back from an injury, and I still couldn’t even get through having a catch or swinging a bat. So they told me to rest it for another month or six weeks. But during that time I went to my original hand surgeon, got a cortisone shot ... and after the shot, I just had a few days of hitting and felt good, so I was right back in there. I have to get my strength back and I don’t think I’m hitting the ball as well as I was earlier in the year, but I still feel like I can contribute a lot.
What’s the key to getting on base so often?
I’m just trying to scratch and claw for everything I can get. That’s something I’ve learned over the years. Even when you are 100-percent strong and healthy, you won’t always feel great all the time and you have to battle. You have to work counts and do whatever it takes for the team to win games and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
You were a fourth-round pick of the Tigers and won their organization’s minor-league player of the year award in 2008 with a Single-A affiliate.
The year before, I went to instructional league in the fall, and after my first full season, they invited me back. But I struggled in the second half, so I took a break from baseball to go back to school. The Tigers were down on me then and thought I didn’t care about baseball, and I struggled early in the next year, too. But I was still an All-Star at the break even though I only had eight or nine homers, and after that, something just clicked. The hitting coach there, Larry Herndon, is the best I’ve ever worked with, and I got hotter than I’ve ever gotten in the second half of the season. I broke a bone in my wrist ... but still hit like 21 homers in the second half even though I missed the last three weeks of the season. It was one of those zones you get in not very often.”
You’re 6-6-inches tall. Did you ever get approached by anyone to join the basketball team at Kentucky?
No, but I was real good friends with my academic adviser, who was also the basketball adviser, so I’d always be around the players and ended up talking to [then-basketball coach] Tubby Smith a couple of times. I played basketball through high school and talked to him about it, but that was about it.
What’s a basketball game at Kentucky like?
It’s huge. I’ve been at Duke and a few others, but Rupp Arena is enormous and it’s crazy. It’s bigger than some NBA arenas. It’s old school, they don’t have a video board in the middle, they have old school speakers ... You go to a game you’ve got to get there early, the introductions are a spectacle on their own.