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Ryan Howard Philadelphia Magazine Cover Story

Mar 26, 2007, 10:06 AM EDT

Pm_ryan_howard_main With the start of another Phillies season, Philadelphia Magazine turns to the big guy, the MVP, number six, Ryan Howard, for their cover.  At times, it’s explaining Ryan Howard to the X5 driving mommies on the Mainline, but there are plenty of anecdotes exciting for even the most devout Howard fan.

I found this college story interesting, focusing on a scout heading to see Ryan at a practice to gauge his work ethic.

Howard went to Southwest Missouri State to play ball, down in the corner of the state. Lafferty kept track. The fall of Ryan’s junior year, Lafferty drove to Springfield to watch practice. It was the off-season, a good time to check out players, see how hard they work, how dialed-in they are to getting better, because it’s always about getting better. One crisp afternoon, Ryan was taking extra batting practice; Lafferty stood behind the protective cage with Andrew Jefferson, a pitcher. Pitchers and hitters, for obvious reasons, are normally about as friendly as gorillas and snakes, though Howard and Jefferson were buddies; Jefferson was busting on Ryan, telling him how much better he could do, that for a big strong guy Howard wasn’t worth a goddamn. Suddenly, Ryan stopped hitting. He laid his bat down, walked to the back of the cage, and said, calmly, “Would you please be quiet. I’m trying to work.” Then he turned around, walked back, picked up his bat, and started hitting again.

Howard read Tony Gwynn’s book, called him up because he wanted to work with him, and practiced with Gwyn using a whiffle ball.

"After his rookie year with the Phils, Ryan called Tony Gwynn, who now coaches San Diego State. Howard had read Gwynn’s book on hitting, and wanted to fly out for a lesson. When he got there, Gwynn placed a Wiffle ball on a tee and said, “Attack it.” Ryan attacked. Gwynn’s players watched, dumbstruck. The rookie of the year whaling away at Wiffle balls. For three days, just like a five-year-old. Gwynn was impressed for another reason: Howard put so much backspin on the ball that when it hit the net it would hover, still spinning, as if a hair dryer was blowing under it, holding it there. Tony Gwynn, one of the best hitters ever, had never seen this before. It told him that Ryan’s technique was very good. And that he was a very strong man."

As a whole, it’s a piece that touches on Ryan’s role as a black star athlete, including the tribulations his parents and their parents went through to give Ryan everything he had.  But the point that sticks out the most is that Ryan Howard is a normal, everyday guy who has a great personality, is grounded, has a tremendous work ethic, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

The Philly Mag piece, if nothing else, reinforces our love for The Big Guy and will get you absolutely pumped for another summer of watching him bash monster homers out of Citizens Bank Park.

It’s going to be a great summer.

>>Ryan Howard Is Not a Creep, a Cheat, a Liar or a Fraud [Philadelphia Magazine]