For the first time since before his Little League days, Ryan Flaherty is not playing baseball.

But he is still in uniform, in the dugout and ever-involved in the game.

Portland native Ryan Flaherty ended his playing career after the 2019 season. He is now a coach with the San Diego Padres. Ralph Freso/Associated Press

“Still get the same rush,” he said.

Flaherty, 34, a Portland native, is a coach with the San Diego Padres. He spoke Thursday by phone from his San Diego apartment. It was an off day, but the memory of Wednesday night’s 7-6 loss to the Dodgers was still fresh, the game ending when San Diego’s Trent Grisham was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Chris Taylor.

“Oh man,” Flaherty said. “What a play. The kid made a great throw.”

Flaherty appreciates a good baseball play. He made enough of them in his playing career, at Deering High, Vanderbilt University and 12 years in the pros, including eight major league seasons.

Following the 2019 season with the Cleveland Indians organization, Flaherty still felt he could play but also wondered if it was time to consider other options. The Padres called. Their offer kept Flaherty in the game, and the transition to coaching has been smooth.

“Honestly, it’s been a lot more normal,” he said. “Having a role that’s on the bench, a lot of days, I’m doing the same thing (I was as a player).”

Even as a player, Flaherty was analyzing the game, looking for ways to beat the opponent. The strategy is the same and so is that “rush.”

“As a coach, you feel the same ups and downs as the players feel,” Flaherty said. “When they do well, there is a sense of satisfaction. When they struggle, there is a sense of defeat.”

That Flaherty would move into coaching seemed inevitable. His father, Ed Flaherty, has coached the University of Southern Maine to more than 1,000 wins and two NCAA Division III championships in 33 years.

“I think I knew, having my dad – and some of the people I had a chance to play for – (coaching) was something I was interested in,” said Flaherty, who began listing some of his major influences.

“My dad, Buck (former Orioles manager Buck Showalter), my college coach (the legendary Tim Corbin of Vanderbilt), (Indians Manager Terry) Francona …

“Last year, talking to Francona about coaching was really good. He was the one who told me at the end of last year – he said, ‘You know what, I don’t how long you’re going to play, but when you’re done, you should go into coaching.’ That meant a lot.”

When the Padres first hired Flaherty in late November, his title was reported as “quality-control coach.” Then the team labeled Flaherty’s job as major league advance scout/development coach.

“I’m basically a coach,” Flaherty said. “I’m in the dugout during the game, doing a bunch of different things. I’m helping the manager with stuff, like in-game advance scouting – who is pitching for the opposing team, and what moves they might make; using information from our player analytics department. Stuff like that.”

Flaherty will also break down video, and occasionally work with infielders. During the game, he’s in uniform. As a player, Flaherty wore various jersey numbers – 3 (Orioles), 27 (Braves) and 7 (Indians). Now he is No. 84. “Just a number they gave me,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty eased into his role during the Padres’ spring training camp in Peoria, Arizona, until the coronavirus pandemic put baseball on hold in mid-March. Flaherty, his wife, Ashley, and 10-month-old son, Ryan Jr., returned to the West Coach in July when training resumed. When the season began on July 24, Ashley and Ryan Jr. flew back East, traveling between their home in Boca Raton, Florida, and Maine to visit friends and family.

It’s an odd season, with a 60-game schedule and travel restrictions. Because of MLB’s policy on limited travel, the farthest east the Padres will go is Colorado.

“Selfishly, I would have liked to have gone back to the East Coast,” said Flaherty, who routinely greeted family and friends during his teams’ visits to the northeast.

But such socializing is out in 2020. Because of the coronavirus, coaches and players are tested every other day and have limited interactions with others. Flaherty is on the phone often with family, including daily calls to his father.

“Talking baseball, and then coaching,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty’s new team is young but a contender. After Friday night’s 3-0 win over Arizona, the Padres are 8-6, in third place in the National League West, but in sixth place overall in the NL. Under the unique 2020 playoff system, eight teams in each league make the postseason – the top two teams in each division, plus the next two teams with the best records.

Flaherty has been to the playoffs with the Orioles and Braves. No doubt, he would feel the same excitement as a coach. He would just have to put in more time, like he is now.

“The hours are crazy different, I can tell you that,” Flaherty said. “Coaching has a lot more hours.” There is the pregame preparation, “after the game, you review, and then start with the next day’s (scouting) report.

“As a player, you show up, you play, your game ends, and you eat and go home to watch Netflix.”

Now, Flaherty watches film of opponents, ever the baseball man, putting his skills to work.


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