Minor league baseball: Former Sooner Ryan Minor finds home in Maryland

Ex-OU basketball, baseball player a rising star in Baltimore Orioles organization as a manager
BY SHANE METTLEN, For The Oklahoman Published: June 24, 2013
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photo - Former OU basketball and baseball player Ryan Minor is now a coach in the Baltimore Orioles organization. 
PHOTO COURTESY FREDERICK KEYS
Former OU basketball and baseball player Ryan Minor is now a coach in the Baltimore Orioles organization. PHOTO COURTESY FREDERICK KEYS

His 6-foot-7 inch frame carries at least 30 more pounds than the 225 it did during his glory days as an Oklahoma Sooner and rolling away from the cheap aluminum desk against one wall there is barely enough room to lean back in his chair next to the sofa where his pitching and hitting coaches usually hang out against another.

Ryan Minor looks a bit cramped in the Frederick Keys manager's office, a tiny room in the corner of the clubhouse. Perhaps he's too big for the Carolina League, but he's comfortable here. He's once again a rising star, moving up in the organization that in the 1990s drafted him twice as a player.

“I really am very fortunate to be a part of this organization,” he said.

From an outsider's perspective it might not have always seemed that way. In 1994 he and his twin brother, Damon, helped OU to the 1994 College World Series championship and a year later Ryan was named the Big Eight basketball player of the year. The next summer he was drafted by both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orioles, who also selected him four years earlier out of Hammon High School.

While many believed he was on the way to a solid and lucrative NBA career, Minor reported to the Orioles rookie league club in Bluefield, W.Va., and failed to make the Sixers roster. He quickly became one of Baltimore's top prospects and was tabbed the heir apparent to Cal Ripken, Jr.

“Doing talk shows and interviews and stuff back then, that's basically all I was asked to talk about,” Minor said. “There was the comparison because of the size and being an athletic guy. Cal liked to play basketball and I played basketball so it was an easy comparison that stuck with me from Day 1.”

Minor made it to the big leagues in 1998 and that September he took Ripken's place at third base in the Orioles' final home game of the season, ending the Hall of Famer's consecutive game streak at  2,632.  

But Minor never became a star in the majors, playing 142 games over four seasons and, according to BaseballReference.com, never making more than $200,000 in a season. While Minor has spent most of his adult life riding buses to minor league outposts such as Hickory, N.C. and Lynchburg, Va., the other All-Big 8 basketball players from 1995 and 1996 combined to make more than $300 million playing in the NBA.

“I was trying both sports and looking back on it maybe things would have been a little different with the way the draft panned out in basketball if I came out after my junior year,” Minor said. “I just had so much going on.”  

But for the Oklahoma native there was something even more valuable in pursuing baseball, he found a home in Maryland and with the Orioles. The slugger who crushed minor league pitching didn't pan out in the big leagues, hitting .177 with five career home runs, and after being traded to the Expos in 2001, Minor bounced around the independent Atlantic League for a few seasons as a player and a coach.