Ryan Madson: Main Line Today's Best Underappreciated Pro Sports Player

In this expanded interview, the Phillies hurler shares the benefits of living in Wayne, backing up the best starting rotation in baseball, and going green.

Ryan Madson (Photo by Miles Kennedy)One of the longest-tenured members of the team, Phillies reliever Ryan Madson has seen it all: bad times, a World Series victory, starting assignments, setup work, closing. As he and his wife, Sarah, prepare for the move to their new, Wayne home, our Best Underappreciated Pro Sports Player took some time to speak with Main Line Today.

Main Line Today: When’s the big move?
Ryan Madson:
We’re still living in New Jersey; we were supposed to move in April. We’re excited, but we’re patiently waiting.

MLT: What are you doing with the new house to get it ready?
Some green things, some energy-saving things, some responsible building and materials.

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MLT: What do you like about the area?
It’s just the small-town America feel; the people are awesome. In New Jersey, I love the people, but Pennsylvania has more trees. It’s more outdoorsy—I like that.

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MLT: The Phillies were struggling when you first played for the team on the major-league level in 2004.
I remember when the stands weren’t always packed my first couple years here. I get to enjoy it more than people who are just coming into it, because I know it wasn’t always like this.

MLT: And with that come expectations.
That’s just the driving force. It holds you responsible, holds you accountable. But it doesn’t add more pressure.

MLT: Ever wish you were still a starter?
Starting in the big leagues is really tough. You’ve got to face the same guys three and four times over the same day, and they start timing you. I think I just wasn’t ready at that time. There’s a different plan for me, and that’s to be a bullpen guy, and I love it. I wouldn’t rather do anything else than do what I do.

MLT: Now, you’re throwing more pitches than just the fastball. How does that reflect on you as a pitcher?
It becomes more about thinking and pitching than just “stuff”—my stuff against your stuff as a hitter.
MLT: Are you still looking for that balance between the mental and physical aspects of the game?
I’m constantly trying to treat it like I’m just playing catch with [catcher] Carlos [Ruiz]. He’s telling me what to throw. All I have to do is just make the pitch. I’m not trying to think about who’s hitting, who’s there, who’s doing this. He’s the boss. If I make my pitch, 95 percent of the time, it’s going to work out, if the pitch is executed. And it’s every pitch. That’s the hardest part: focusing like that every pitch.

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MLT: How hard is it?
It’s taken six years just to realize that. To practice it and do it every pitch, I still can’t do it. I’ll still throw a pitch where I was just trying to out-stuff the guy, instead of out-pitch the guy. I still do it, but a lot less than now than I used to when I was younger.

MLT: Are you satisfied with your role as one of the best setup men in baseball?
Yeah. That was pretty much my goal going into the 2008 season—saying I want to be the best setup guy there is. And that will take me wherever it takes me.

MLT: Manager Charlie Manuel says this team’s attitude is excellent. How would you characterize what that means to the team?
Attitude, to me, is confidence. If you have a confident attitude, you’re going to go out there and play with confidence, and you’re going to play your best. This game is all about confidence. Anything is all about confidence.

MLT: Do you ever feel like fast-forwarding to the end of the season?
I remember in 2008, when we went to the World Series and won it all, I said, “How are we going to play a regular-season game after this?” [But] once you get on the field, all the fans are going crazy and it’s time for you to perform, you don’t even think about the World Series. You’re just thinking about that hitter, that pitch.

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MLT: How hard is it to do that—make every pitch count?
A lot of players on this team can do that. Their focus is every pitch, every at bat. It’s not: “Let’s see what happens,” or, “I hope it works.” This game is so tough. When you come up [from the minors], it’s a whole different world. When you’re out of your element, out of your comfort zone, you’ve got to be able to realize, “What’s going to make me stay here?” That’s confidence and knowledge.

MLT: Do you take care of your body differently now?
Absolutely—it’s taken injury to do that. Injury creates routine. When you’re injured, you have to rehab it. And once you’re done rehabbing, you’re not done rehabbing, because you’ve got to keep doing it—or else you’ll hurt it again. Injury creates your routine. And the more you play, the more you get injured.

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MLT: Have you always been so loose?
Yeah, definitely. The game is fun. I think life should be fun. When guys aren’t comfortable, that’s the last thing you want. I try to make guys comfortable, and if that makes them laugh, it’s a bonus.

MLT: What do you do when you’re not playing baseball?
I rock crawl. There’s a place called Rausch Creek Off Road Park out by Reading. It’s not a very popular thing, but I grew up doing it. In Southern California, and that’s all we did: Drive trucks and climb hills and rocks. You’ve got a cage surrounding you, and you’re going a mile an hour. If you get into trouble, you just tip over.
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