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Major fun in minor leagues

Dusty Ryan imagines what it would be like to get the call.

The former Golden Valley and Merced College catcher has seen it happen to other players.

"It's pretty crazy," Ryan said. "One day they're here and then they get called into the manager's office.

"One time, we were playing some team and one of our guys got the call in the middle of the game.

"Guys were jumping and yelling in the dugout. I'd be pretty nervous. I don't know what I'd do."

Ryan is doing his best to earn his phone call.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound catcher earned a trip to play in the Double-A Eastern League All-Star game on Wednesday.

Ryan has broken through offensively this year with a .258 average to go along with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs for the Erie SeaWolves.

The Tigers' 48th-round draft pick in 2003 may be in position to receive a late-season promotion when Major League baseball teams expand their rosters in September.

"It's always been my dream," he said. "I remember when you're in elementary school and junior high, and you have to write those papers of what you want to be when you grow up.

"Mine were always about being a professional baseball player.

"I never really thought it could happen until my senior year in high school when scouts start looking at you.

"When you get drafted, it really opens your eyes."

Defense has always been Ryan's strength.

He had a big-league arm when he came to Merced College. His 52 percent caught stealing percentage this year is tops in the Eastern League.

Baseball America ranked him as the best defensive catcher in the Tigers farm system after last year.

"No doubt he's got a good body and the tools," Merced College coach Chris Pedretti said. "But that just opens the doors for you.

"He's worked his tail off and now he's just a phone call away from being in the big leagues."

With Ivan Rodriguez in the final year of his contract with the Tigers, the 23-year-old Ryan has a legitimate shot of making the big league club next spring.

"My teammates tell me my chances are pretty good," Ryan said. "The two guys ahead of me at Triple-A are 27 and 28 years old.

"If I keep doing what I'm doing, I have a real good shot."

A torn meniscus in his right knee limited Ryan to just 52 games last year.

After the injury, Ryan wasn't sure where he'd end up this season.

However, he was invited to the big league camp for spring training for the second straight year -- then promoted to Double-A for the first time.

"The game is a little faster and the pitchers have the ability to throw more than their fastball for strikes," Ryan said.

"I see a lot of 1-0 and 2-0 changeups and 3-2 breaking balls."

Ryan's success at the plate is a product of his constant hard work.

When he comes back to Merced during the offseason, he works out six days a week with his former teammate Michael Solis.

He drags in another former teammate, Mike Trujillo, out to throw him batting practice.

Now with his success this year, Ryan can see the ultimate goal in sight.

"When you first sign you don't really think about it," Ryan said. "After being in the minors a couple years, you see friends come and go.

Some get released.

"My plan was to see where I'm at when I'm 25. If it's not looking good, I might look to do something else.

"Right now it's looking real good."