BOWIE, Md. — Ryan McKenna, as a young boy at Hadlock Field, was able to obtain the autograph of then-Red Sox prospect Hanley Ramirez.

“I was one of those kids who had a baseball in hand,” McKenna said. “That was really cool. I was pretty young at the time. Now being one of them (pros) is a funny turn of events.”

That was more than a decade ago while McKenna was growing up in Berwick. McKenna, 21, is now trying to make his way from the Eastern League to the major leagues.

The speedy outfielder was promoted on June 21 to the Double-A Bowie Baysox, the Eastern League affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, two days after playing in the Class A Carolina League All-Star Game. He was honored as the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Month in May and June. Bowie has no more games scheduled against the Portland Sea Dogs this season.

“Ryan has made great strides offensively, both mentally and physically,” said Brian Graham, the Orioles’ director of player development. “His pitch recognition, strike zone awareness, and ability to use the whole field has been really good this year. It’s been really fun to watch his development.”

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound McKenna was drafted in the fourth round in 2015 by the Orioles out of St. Thomas Aquinas High in Dover, New Hampshire. He hit .256 with 20 steals last year for the low Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League. This spring, he hit .377 with eight home runs and 18 doubles in 67 games with the high Single-A Frederick Keys of the Carolina League before his promotion to Bowie.


“Offensively, he is a guy that hit the ground running,” said Bowie Manager Gary Kendall. “He has been a tough out at the plate. He has driven a lot of balls that have been hit hard and handled or caught (by outfielders). He can run the bases very well. He is excellent on the bases. He gets down the line.

“Defensively he has played center field very well. In the next 40 games I would like to see him in left and right field as well. He has good instincts for the game, a good baserunner. He has done a really nice job. He could profile down the road (as a leadoff hitter). We are happy with him hitting fifth or sixth or other spots in the order.”

McKenna is hitting .254 with two home runs and nine RBI in his first 32 games with Bowie.

What is the biggest difference in the jump to the Eastern League?

“I think the biggest thing is the experience,” McKenna said. “For the most part these (pitchers) can locate the ball and read the hitters. The relationship with the catcher is very intuitive. That experience is definitely the biggest difference” from high Class-A.

The Baysox play at Prince George’s Stadium, less than an hour southeast of Camden Yards in Baltimore.


The last-place Orioles are now in full rebuild mode, with recent trades of All-Star shortstop Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton. That could create an opening for prospects in the system.

“Obviously it is a two-edged sword,” McKenna said. “You hate to see those guys go. They did so much for the organization. You try to use them as role models going forward. You try and set a good example like they did. We hope to bring a World Series to Baltimore at some point in the future.”

McKenna was born in Grants Pass, Oregon, and moved to Berwick as a young boy with his parents. He lived there until about the time he was drafted by the Orioles. His parents now live in Dover, New Hampshire, and he has spent the past few winters there, though he plans to move to Florida this offseason in order to be close to the Orioles’ spring training home in Sarasota.

“Pretty much (baseball) is the main reason,” he said. “We have to try and make some strides there. It is tough being from New England, where it snows a lot. For my career it is best to move down South.”

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