When I was a kid I would stand for hours in the back yard going through all-star lineups. I would be Will Clark and Dale Murphy, and I know I was horrible at it but it was fun. Even in the batting cages now it is fun to be Julio Franco or Will Clark. I know I have never been good at this, but I have found someone who is, Gar Ryness – The Batting Stance Guy.
He has formed sort of a cult following with his amazing ability to mimic hitters from past and present. He has appeared on Letterman, ESPN, MLB Network, and has become a YouTube favorite. I did a review recently on his new book Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter to Baseball.
Recently he was kind enough to sit down and share some of his insights with me.
I just finished your book, and I have to say I really enjoyed the stories. But I have one burning question.
What does your personal batting stance look like. Does it resemble anyone or have you lost any ‘natural’ stance at this point?
a) In high school I tried to be Ryne Sandberg. It was a pretty boring stance which might be why I didn’t get off the bench much. In the City Rec Softball playoffs I’ll try either David Justice or Will Clark from the left side. From the right side I’m Greg Gagne.
You have really blown up since I first saw you on the MLB network in 2009. What initially got you started?
a) Falling in love with baseball in 1980 is the real answer, but certainly my buddy and co-author Caleb asking to videotape me imitating Red Sox so he could show his friends in Boston was the start of the ride of the last few years.
Did you think it would ever get this big?
a) Once it got views on YouTube, I thought maybe season ticket holders, or geeks like me could like it, but I certainly never imagined players watching it in the clubhouse. No.
However, everyone with kids will know, it doesn’t matter how big anything gets it’s no big deal to them. They wish I imitated Hannah Montana or the Jonas Brothers, at least then they could meet someone cool.
In your book, Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter to Baseball, you talk about Kevin Youkilis being the Michelangelo of stances. I know you get a lot of requests to do Youkilis, but do you have a favorite you like to perform?
a) If baseball stance requests were songs from a rock band, then Youkilis, Jeter, Manny, Rickey and Franco are all on the greatest hits album and they’re great to play because everyone can sing alone. But I’m the geek who secretly prefers the B-side songs of that obscure concept album that nobody bought. Guys like Moises Alou, Gary Matthews Sr (The Sarge), and Ben Oglivie are my favorites. There are also some spectacular Japanese stances that are fun to do. The world needs to know about Hitoshi Taneda.
I’ve seen a lot of videos where you perform for players, and every time they are beside themselves with laughter. Has there been any one particular reaction that stands out as either the best or strangest?
a) When visiting Minnesota, I was told my disclaimers about Joe Mauer – “He’ll enter the field right before stretching time. Don’t bother him, let him be, etc etc”. I had no plan to approach him. Jason Kubel, Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla were calling out names and laughing when Mauer and Morneau entered the dugout. The entire Twins team laughed pretty hard at my Delmon Young impression. The teams then went into the OF to stretch. I then have a thrilling conversation in the dugout with Bert Blyleven and his brother. Fifteen minutes later, tap on the shoulder, holy smokes, it’s Joe Mauer. He introduces himself, asks me my real name and we talk off camera for 5 minutes. That was pretty great.
Has anyone not been receptive to anything you have done?
a) Josh Beckett and I had an awkward interaction. It was spring training and he wanted me to do pitcher’s hitting stances. I joked with him about doing imitations of catchers like Mike Napoli hitting homers off of him in the post-season. *Crickets*. He told me to keep my day job. We talked for a while longer and he ended shaking my hand while saying, “You’re a funny dude.”
Thanks Josh Beckett.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your stories and insights on the different teams and ballparks that you have visited. When I visit a new stadium I feel like a kid at Christmas about to open his first present. What are your favorite places to watch a game?
a) Thanks for the kind words about the book. Glad you liked it. Wrigley and Fenway are great but AT&T Park in San Francisco is beautiful. San Diego might be the best for kids w/ tons to do, including building sand castles and playing Wiffleball just outside the park.
As you have gotten more popular over time, have you ever had any strange encounters from fans at games requesting players, hitting tips, or been given suggestions?
a) I’ve been at parties where semi-recognizable actors have asked for a Chipper Jones as their introduction to me. My favorite suggestions are from folks that introduce themselves saying they can do it waaaaay better, then they make me watch them and imitate George Brett right handed or Frank Thomas left handed and implore me that that’s how they bat. Awesome.
Last year you were on the David Letterman show. What was that experience like?
a) Surreal. Like walking on stage at a graduation where you just hope you don’t fall down. If there wasn’t footage, I’d honestly think it never happened. I was thankful he invited me and I can’t think of a Bucket List item that was higher. For real.
You said on Letterman you would like to get your bat into the Hall of Fame. Have you used the same bat since you started?
a) More or less yes. I bought a lot of 6 on ebay. They are all used, because we broke several filming various backyard or FoxSportsNet Bo Jackson bat breaking videos. Then one broke in half while in middle of SFGiants stretching circle. They requested Juan Uribe and he finishes his swing slamming the bat on the ground while quickly raising both hands over his head. Top of the bat broke off. So kids, be careful imitating Juan Uribe’s follow-thru.
You had a lot of great stories in the book. Getting onto the A’s field on an off day, the earthquake during the 1989 World Series. Included in those was watching the 1992 NLCS. You mention how Braves fans love that moment more than the 1995 team winning the World Series; and as a die-hard Braves fan myself, I have to say you are right. I still get goose bumps when listening to the call (although I prefer Skip Carey’s call). What memories stand out the most for you?
a) You won’t like this, but my favorite player of all-time is Kent Hrbek and when Gene Larkin singled home Dan Gladden off Alejandro Pena in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series I sprinted out of my freshman college dorm room to find someone from Minnesota to share the moment with. My roommate from Greece who was into pop art and motor sports didn’t share my excitement. The craziest moment I’ve seen live was Scott Podsednik’s walk-off HR off Brad Lidge to win Game 2 of the 2005 WorldSeries. Crowd went insane. Mostly because we were all frozen.
Lastly, as a huge baseball fan myself, I got to know where you get all of your great t-shirts from? The Rated Rookie, I Still Call It the Jake, and others are simply classics.
a) I agree. Company called No Mas. (NoMas-NYC.com) has a bevy of hip choices. Got them all from there.
I’d like to thank Gar again for taking the time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer some questions for me. Pick up his book Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter to Baseball and check out some of the funny stories he has to tell. His book brought me back to my childhood in my own backyard. He is just a baseball fan like the rest of us, and this book shows it. So take a trip down memory lane to some of the crazier stances of the last 30 years. It’s worth the ride.