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Smyth Looks To Bring Fun and Stability Back to Gatemen

02/06/2023 7:21 AM

Article By: Andrew Fantucchio

Ryan Smyth is always pursuing perfection. However, the new manager of the Wareham Gatemen doesn’t leave that mindset on the field, as he applies it to all other aspects of his life, including his snacks.

“It's trying to find perfection,” Smyth said. “When I eat popcorn and get to the bottom of the bowl, I’ll pick up the last piece and chew on it and think, ‘Damn, I want to make a bowl without a kernel.’ It just kind of became a thing, challenging myself every day to stay by the microwave and pick the perfect second to stop it. It just kind of became a little bit of a game. I guess that's just the competitor in me.”

Taking over in Wareham this summer, Smyth will bring that same approach to developing his players in hopes that he can get every player that suits up for the Gatemen to pop.

“I think if you're around baseball long enough, surely you're trying to develop everybody that you possibly can,” Smyth said. “It's why we're doing it; for the love of getting these guys to the next level and beyond.”

Smyth arrives in Wareham after spending the last six seasons with the Brewster Whitecaps, where he won Cape League championships in 2017 and 2021. While Smyth’s primary role with the Whitecaps was as the team’s hitting coach, he also had a heavy hand in recruiting, which was a factor that made him stick out in a pool of 20 other potential candidates throughout Wareham’s search for a new skipper.

“We were looking for somebody who understood that this is about player development,” said Wareham general manager Bob Prince. “This is about setting kids up for the next level.”

Smyth’s ability to develop talent was evident during last year’s Major League Baseball Draft when Brewster had 25 players selected by big league clubs, with three going in the first round. However, Smyth stressed that developing players on the Cape isn’t just about focusing on their skills or combing through their stats. Although he is a part of the coaching staff at Keystone College, Smyth says that when players arrive in Wareham, they can expect a much more mellow environment than they’re used to at school.

“You got to have fun playing baseball. I think these guys have so much on the line in college that there's a little bit of micromanaging while they’re at school,” Smyth said. “I think allowing them to come out here and relax is huge. I think for your players to be able to enjoy the summer and have fun, that's what's going to keep them in the league longer.”

Part of that mindset may be due to Smyth being one of the younger managers in Cape League, at 36 years old. Throughout his time on the Cape, Smyth has been a favorite amongst players such as Kurtis Byrne, a catcher at Texas Christian University, who spent the last two summers learning from Smyth in Brewster.

“Wareham is getting a really good coach in Ryan,” Byrne said. “He’s just an unbelievable human being, and he just does a great job of leading young men. He’s an awesome guy, and I love him to death. I think the players are really going to reap the benefits of his personability and being able to talk to him.”

While Smyth’s ability to connect with players may be his strongest trait, there’s hope within the Gatemen organization that their new manager can do the same in the Wareham community.

“He's just got a very infectious personality,” Prince said. “He understands that we need to bring the youth of the area into the program and connect with them. We're a little bit different than some of the other programs because we tend to have more locals come to our games as opposed to tourists. So, connecting with that group was quite honestly one of the big focuses on his end.”

“I’m really looking forward to being in a new town,” Smyth said. “I want to try to connect with everybody that I possibly can. I want to make sure that our players understand how much this means to the town of Wareham.”

Fans of Wareham have been on a roller coaster journey over the last handful of seasons, ever since longtime manager Cooper Farris left the organization in 2015. Since then, the Gatemen have had four different managers, each with varying degrees of success and failure.

Now that Smyth is tasked with assembling the lineup card, it’s hopefully the start of stability for the Wareham club heading into the future. For that to happen, Smyth feels he has to lay the groundwork this season.

“I think one of the biggest keys to move this organization forward is getting those relationships established early,” Smyth “We want to make sure that our players leave here and go back and say, ‘We need to send guys to Wareham.’ We want to get the best handful of guys from this school or that school and build from there. Hopefully, we win a lot of games along the way.”