Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Joe Ryan doesn’t know exactly how playing water polo impacted his baseball career, but one aspect of his days in the pool seems to have obviously carried over to the mound: his warmup routine.
Check it out:
I love that Joe Ryan, who was a water polo player, just did a pre-inning stretch on the mound that looks very similar to what swimmers do on their starting block. (Watch until the shoulder shimmy at the end.) pic.twitter.com/sUirIxQ6mv
— John Bonnes (@TwinsGeek) September 9, 2021
Seems like a textbook performance of Michael Phelps‘ signature arm flap. In fact, Phelps even did that warmup — shoulder shimmy included — before he threw out the first pitch, caught by pitcher Archie Bradley, at an Arizona Diamondbacks game in 2018. Bradley also tried out the famed warmup.
Last night, the greatest Olympian ever traded in the pool for the diamond.
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) August 26, 2018
Ryan considered water polo his primary sport for about a decade when he was growing up, and credits the sport for helping him avoid baseball burnout. He was originally drafted in the 39th round out of high school in 2014, but instead of starting his pro baseball career then, opted to play in college and was later drafted in the seventh round in 2018.
The Phelps warmup apparently worked for Ryan when that video was snapped on Sept. 8, as the rookie took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his second MLB start.
“[Ryan] had an absolute cannon (in the pool),” Olympic water polo player Dylan Woodhead, who played with him in high school, recently told The Athletic. “He could rip it hard. It was a while ago, but I still have memories to this day of how hard he shoots and also how focused he was on his end-goal of baseball even while playing water polo, just being very protective of your arm and being healthy.”
The 25-year-old Ryan started for Team USA in baseball in Tokyo, where Woodhead got the chance to watch him play (Ryan, then a minor leaguer, was actually traded to the Twins while at the Olympics).
“His arm angle is very unique and low and it definitely is affected by water polo,” Woodhead said. “You can see that pretty easily with a lot of the professional water polo players, how versatile their arm angles are and how much they’re using their torso and core to generate power. Joe obviously generates a lot with his legs too, but there’s definitely some parts of the water polo throwing motion that he’s kind of hung onto while throwing the baseball.”