Joe Ryan, Stanislaus State's first Olympian in school history, has won a silver medal at the 2020 Summer Games for baseball.
Ryan, who played for the Warriors in 2018, achieved plenty of success in Tokyo despite facing a unique set of circumstances.
Not only were there no fans in attendance for any of Team USA's six games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium in Japan, but hours after Ryan and his teammates arrived to the Olympic village on July 23, he was included in one of the biggest Major League Baseball transactions of the year. The Tampa Bay Rays organization, who drafted Ryan out of Stan State in the seventh round of the 2018 MLB Draft, traded him to the Minnesota Twins for superstar slugger and potential future Hall of Famer Nelson Cruz.
While still trying to comprehend the blockbuster trade, Team USA manager Mike Scioscia then gave Ryan the responsibility of being the team's starting pitcher for their opening game against Israel on July 30.
“I’m focused on winning here [in Tokyo for Team USA],” Ryan said. “[The trade] really hasn’t settled in. I’ll focus on that on the flight back.”
Performing under such circumstances could be difficult, but the 25-year-old right-hander proceeded to dominate the international competition.
In his start against Israel, Ryan gave up one run on five hits, striking out five batters without allowing a single walk over six dominant innings. The final score was United States 8, Israel 1.
Joe Ryan is one of the two players the Rays traded for Nelson Cruz, and he’s shoving so far at the Olympics as he strikes out the side in the second inning pic.twitter.com/jbuzJjHPCz— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 30, 2021
The one run scored by Israel was a fourth inning home run by former major league veteran Danny Valencia. After the game, Valencia raved over Ryan's performance.
“He’s got really great stuff,” Valencia said. “I think the Twins are going to be really pleased with him. I think that he’s going to be one of their better pitchers for a lot of years to come.”
Ryan's next start came in the semifinal round against the Republic of Korea on Aug. 5. Scioscia had Ryan on a much shorter leash this time around as he was taken out of the game after only 4 1/3 innings despite only surrendering one run on four hits while striking out three batters. Team USA would end up winning the game 7-2, guaranteeing itself a medal and punching a ticket to the gold medal game against Japan on Aug. 7.
New #MNTwins prospect Joe Ryan is out of the game for #TeamUSA at the Olympic semifinals.4.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 KUSA leading 2-1 through four and a half. Winner to the gold medal game, loser to the bronze medal game. pic.twitter.com/puC42LYnPI— Twins Gems (@TwinsGems) August 5, 2021
With the semifinal and gold medal games only being two days apart, Ryan was done for the Olympics. He reflected on his time in Tokyo in a postgame interview.
"It has been amazing. Just getting all the love from back home from friends, family... Truly, I know everyone says it, but I really wouldn't be here without them. So many coaches have paved the way for this," Ryan said.
While the United States were riding high heading into the final game of the tournament, Japanese pitching proved to be superior, as the U.S was shut out in a 2-0 ballgame.
Despite falling a game short of the ultimate goal, Scioscia was grateful for his experience of being able to manage this year's national team.
“I have nothing but positives to throw on all these guys,” Scioscia said. “We got within a couple breaks of winning the gold medal. They represented the United States well, they represented our game well, and we are all very proud of that.”
As for Ryan, he'll be returning to the United States as a member of a team he has no experience with.
“It’s kind of weird,” Ryan said. “Going back is definitely going to be different than I had anticipated.”
Ryan is expected to report to the Triple-A affiliate of the Twins, the St. Paul Saints, once he returns from Tokyo, now as an Olympic silver medalist.