Healy makes splash on field and in clubhouse

On Saturday, Ryon Healy became the eighth player to make his major league debut for the Oakland Athletics in 2016 — player No. 18,796 in MLB history, according to Baseball Reference.

In his second career game and start, on Sunday, the righty collected his first big league hit — a three-run homer off Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey. It was the first time in his life facing a knuckleball, and it came against the American League’s 2012 CY Young Award winner.

The Los Angeles native, who had about 12 family members in attendance on Sunday, said that he experienced an adrenaline rush as he watched the ball sail over the eight-foot high wall, just inside the foul pole in left:

“It really kinda hit me when (I was rounding third, and) I saw the guys standing at home plate. They gave me big high-fives, unlike the guys in the dugout who gave me the silent treatment — which I love. I caught a glimpse of my family when I was running into the dugout, so that made it more special.”

Oakland manager Bob Melvin spoke to the significance of the momentous homer, which gave his A’s a lead they never relinquished:

“Not only is your first hit special — to hit a three-run homer — but (for it) to be so impactful as the game went along, that’s pretty impressive.”

Healy, who was drafted by the A’s in the third round of the 2013 amateur draft, spent just three seasons in the minor leagues before his call up. Coming into the 2016 season, Baseball America had him listed as the franchise’s No. 22 prospect.

A corner infielder, the University of Oregon product struggled out of the gates in his professional career, batting .230 in his first season. His numbers have steadily risen since, and some power coming to light this year.

Through 85 games — 337 at-bats — between Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Midland this year, Healy boasts a .326/.382/.558 slash with 14 home runs and 64 RBIs.

Those numbers grant the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder favorable comparison to the highly touted Joey Gallo (Baseball America’s No. 10 overall prospect), of the Texas Rangers, who has slashed .249/.385/.545 with 15 homers and 38 RBIs in 209 Triple-A at-bats.

Healy’s previous high for home runs in a season came in 2014 when he hit 16 in 561 at-bats in High-A Stockton. The average, on-base and slugging percentage from Healy’s 2016 minor league campaign are each career highs as well.

For all his potential production, however, it his mannerisms that have caught the attentions of his coaches and teammates.

Pitcher Sonny Gray (4-8, 5.12 ERA), who was the beneficiary of the run support collecting his first win since April 22, said that the major league game does not seem to be moving too fast for the rookie:

“From everything we’ve seen so far, he’s a great guy in the clubhouse. He works hard, and he’s pretty easy to be around. … He’s done everything that you can ask, and you would hope for.”

The club’s home run leader Khris Davis, who hit a pair of bombs of his own on Sunday, said:

“I like his energy — he comes out not scared. He’s big and physical, so I can’t wait to see more.”

The skipper added, very succinctly:

“He’s a confident kid, that was apparent right away.”

That confidence is something that Healy believes serves him both on and off the field:

“You have to believe that you belong — and that’s no matter where you are in life — and just really run with that. There’s a borderline between arrogance and confidence, and I like to hover on the confident aspect.”

His impressive calmness is on display not only in the box, but in the field as well. Prior to making several attention-grabbing plays on Sunday, including recovering from being handcuffed by a bad hop to get an out in the first inning, Healy made multiple stellar plays in his debut.

A duo of defensive dandies, particularly one that displayed his strong arm — making a throw from the foul line behind third base in the ninth — Melvin said were influential in the victory.

Since being called up Friday morning, two major league games under his belt, Healy’s bat looks promising, with his defense not far behind.

Five days prior to his first major league appearance, he represented the USA in the MLB All-Star Futures Game. He was able to procure his first hit and home run ball, in exchange for an autographed ball and hat.

Now he’s got some new milestones to conquer.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.