ASK THE INDIANS: Ryan Lantz, Manager of Arizona Operations
With spring training in full swing, TribeVibe sat down with Ryan Lantz, the Indians Manager of Arizona Operations, to find out what really goes into running the Goodyear Development Complex. Lantz, a graduate of Champion High School (Warren, OH) and Ohio State, got his start with the Indians in 2001 and has been with the organization continuously for the last six years.
[Editor’s Note: Ryan was also responsible for developing the ill-behaved persona of Ketchup back in 2007 for the Hot Dog Race]
With the entire organization descending on your complex for almost 2 months, what types of preparations do you have to make to ensure that spring training runs smoothly?
“In a nutshell, my main responsibility at this time of the year is to make sure that the facility is running optimally for the six to eight weeks that everyone’s down here in Goodyear and there’s a lot to keep an eye on. Outside, we have six full-sized practice fields, two half-fields (typically used for infield drills), an expansive batting cage structure and an agility field. The building itself has two clubhouses (major and minor league), a large weight room, extensive athletic training and rehab facilities, two kitchens and a media center. Our job is to make sure that all of that is exceptionally maintained and operational before pitchers and catchers report in mid-February.”
Does your job change significantly during spring training (and how so)?
“It does because spring training is the one time of the year that you have people from virtually every area of the organization in one place at the same time. With both major league and minor league camp running simultaneously, we can have more than 400 people here at once as opposed to rest of the year when we may have a total of 100-150 run through the complex at various times from May through January. Beyond the operations of our complex, the scope of our focus must also expand to include what goes on down the street at Goodyear Ballpark. The Indians want to make sure we’re providing the best spring training experience possible for our fans during their visit so we work with the City of Goodyear to coordinate decisions related to ticket promotions, merchandising, concessions and parking.”
How is the Indians Goodyear Development Complex utilized throughout the rest of the year?
“We have about 10 months of programming at the facility so I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that we shut down when the Indians head back to Cleveland. We host our short-season Class A affiliate (Mahoning Valley) for extended spring training and then our Rookie League team for several months following the amateur draft in June. For our rookies, the Goodyear Development Complex is really their first introduction to the culture of Indians baseball. In Sept./Oct., the Indians player development staff holds a fall instructional league for a select group of minor league prospects. The complex also serves as our rehab headquarters for injured players at all levels.”
Your communication with the front office back in Cleveland seems like it might be extremely important. Who are you in contact with most frequently and what types of decisions do you coordinate with them?
“I report to Jerry Crabb, our Sr. Director of Ballpark Operations back in Cleveland, and we talk multiple times every week to make sure that we’re on the same page about what’s going on with the facility itself. I also speak to numerous people within our baseball operations department throughout the year to discuss issues that impact our player development programs.”
What types of skill sets are necessary to do your job well day in and day out?
“Obviously the ability to multi-task and the motivation to have a team-player mentality are both key. You’ve also got to have a proactive approach and a positive attitude to be able to push through when requests start piling up.”
Biggest challenge associated with your job:
“Staying organized and on top of the on-going tasks that pop up. When you have a fire to put out so to speak – a water pipe leaks or a piece of equipment breaks for instance – you have to know how to approach a problem and have the ability to think on the fly.”
Most rewarding aspect of your job:
“That I have the opportunity to work for a Major League Baseball team – these positions don’t open up very often and I don’t take that for granted.”
Something most people would never guess about your job:
“That I do, in fact, work more than 3 months out of the year!”
How did you get your foot in the door with the Indians?
“I was fortunate enough to be hired by the Indians marketing & special events department for an internship position between my junior and senior years at Ohio State and I formed a lot of great relationships while I was there. The Cleveland Cavaliers gave me my first job out of OSU and spent two years in their sales department before I had an opportunity to come back to the Tribe. I accepted a role that allowed me to assist in the operation of the Indians’ spring training facility during our final three years in Winter Haven, Florida and when we moved to here to Goodyear, that transformed into the position I have now.”
Advice you would give someone trying to begin a career in MLB/professional sports:
“When you’re starting out, internships are key and the more of them you’re able complete while you’re in college or just out of school, the better off you’re going to be. Take advantage of whatever opportunities you’re afforded – whether that’s a job with a Single-A club or a major league team – and make sure that you’re being a team player when someone does hire you. No job is too small; I still walk around the grounds and pick up trash because we’re all responsible for the condition of the complex.”
Someone who significantly influenced your career: “Ken Stefanov (Indians Sr. VP of Finance & CFO) – he was my first boss with the Indians and taught me a lot.”
Something you miss about living in Cleveland: “Spending time with family and friends sticks out the most – that and getting to see the Indians play at Progressive Field on a regular basis.”
A Book worth reading: How to Win Friends & Influence People – “That was one of the first books I read as part of the sales team with the Cavaliers and it had an impact on my life as far as treating others the way you’d like to be treated.”
A movie worth seeing: Moneyball – “I think it did a pretty good job of portraying our industry for people looking to gain a better perspective of how the game works on the inside…plus one of the opening scenes depicted the Cleveland front office, which I thought was pretty neat.”
A person’s leadership style that you admire/would like to emulate: “I love presidential politics so I’m going to say Ronald Reagan. I was still a kid in the Eighties and didn’t have many first-hand impressions of his presidency, but I’ve read several books about his life. He seemed very outgoing in his leadership style with people, but also set and stuck to a very clear agenda while he was the governor of California and during his time in the Oval Office.”
What keeps you balanced when you leave the ballpark? “My wife Lisa, we’ve been married for 5 years and she keeps everything in perspective.”