Top 100 Baseball Blog

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Jamie Lavarnway- Ryan Lavarnway's Partner in His Baseball Journey

The life of a professional baseball player is a continuous roller coaster of ups and downs. Great successes, bitter disappointments, nomadic living and uncertain futures are all part of the experience. These are not just enjoyed and anguished over by the player; those closest to them are right next to them in the passenger seat for the wild journey. Nobody knows this better than Jamie Lavaranway, the wife of long-time catcher Ryan Lavarnway.

The Lavarnways have been together for years and seen about as much as a couple involved in professional baseball might see. A former athlete herself, Jamie is no stranger to the pressures and intricacies of the game. As you might expect, she has incredibly unique insight as to what life is like for a baseball family.

Ryan is in his 12th professional season and was originally selected in the sixth round of the 2008 draft by the Boston Red Sox. Since that time, he has played for nine organizations and over 20 individual teams. He has spent parts of eight seasons in the majors, with six different teams. In total, he has appeared in 151 games, hitting .211 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs.

Most recently, he is with the Cincinnati Reds organization, appearing in five big-league games thus far in 2019, blasting two homers and driving in seven in that short stint.

Recently, with Ryan’s season winding down, I was able to catch up with Jamie, who shared some wonderful insight into her husband’s career and her experience as his partner in the great adventure that is professional baseball.

What was your experience with baseball prior to meeting Ryan?: I grew up playing softball, so I certainly understood the game of baseball well. I'm from Colorado and will always root for the Rockies, but I didn't understand many of the insides of the business of baseball until after we had started dating.

What are the primary challenges of having a spouse who plays professional baseball?: The biggest challenge is the unpredictable nature of baseball. We have been members of eight organizations since 2015, and more teams than that along the way. Having to find new places to live every season (sometimes multiple times a season!) is always the biggest challenge. I can't remember the last time we ended one season and started the next season with the same team. Making new friends, trying to establish some sort of life in a new city, that's the hardest part. 

What is one city Ryan has played in that you wish you didn't have to leave?: Ugh, there are actually quite a few! The one benefit of being on so many teams is getting to live in so many new places! Portland (Maine), Pawtucket, and Nashville have been my favorites. I worked in each of those cities and really loved all of them. Working in most cities we have been in has been a great way for me to build a life in a city outside of baseball. 

What do you think about fans- the good, the bad and the ugly?: For the most part I think that fans are really supportive and it's fun to interact with them. In organizations like Boston, even when the fans hate you, at least they hate you because they love the Red Sox so much. I completely understand that! Ryan and I try to make ourselves available to people and we both try to be involved with community work in the organization we are playing in. The ugly side usually comes online where people will say things to you that they would never say to your face. I think people often forget that these players aren't just a cog in a machine- DFAs, releases, and poor play can mean the end of an income and stability for a family. Players (and their spouses) are very aware of when they aren't playing well, and they don't like when it happens any more than a fan does!

What is life like for you during a season?: For the first seven or so years we were dating and married, I worked in the home city that we played in. I went to culinary school and have worked in a kitchen since graduating and moving to be on the road with Ryan. As I mentioned above, I really love working and having a life outside of baseball in each new city we lived in. A few years ago, I missed every call up that Ryan had because of my work schedule, and after that season I stopped working. You never know when the last time I going to be, and I don't want to miss it! 

The thing that people don't always realize when a player is promoted, demoted, traded, DFA'd is that they are usually on a plane within a few hours. They get just a moment’s notice to pack up their things- and that is assuming they are playing at home and not on the road! When those calls come, I am the one who packs the car, drives our belongings and pup to the new place. A transition in the season means finding a new place to live and all of the logistics that come with that. 

What is your favorite memory so far of Ryan's career?: I'm not sure what I would have said a few months ago, but his debut in Cincinnati is something I will remember forever. I missed the game he had in Baltimore (while playing with the Red Sox) where he had a similar outstanding performance, so to be there in person was really exciting!

Has it been difficult to pursue your own professional and personal interests given the nomadic nature of professional baseball?: Absolutely. I have pretty much had to put "having a career" on hold until baseball is over. I know that everyone does it differently, but for us, the priority is to be together as much as possible. I have worked for a number of years when it made sense, in our home city, but years like this (four teams, three organizations) make it very tough! There is plenty of time after baseball is over to have a traditional career path. I have done a number of side projects when they made sense with my schedule- I had a food blog for a number of years - I also volunteered with Big Fluffy Dog Rescue in Nashville and did remote work for them for the better part of two years. Unfortunately when our schedule/organization/planned travel changes, it makes keeping commitments difficult.

How many games do you attend and what, if any, involvement do you have with the teams?: I think most baseball wives have a similar trajectory- when you're young you're at every game, early, whether your boyfriend is playing is irrelevant. Now that we are almost 10 years in, I go to the games that Ryan plays, but I usually show up later in the game. Ryan always tells teammates they can find me in the stands because I'm the one reading a book most innings. 

How many different places have you lived with Ryan?: Oh my..... let's count! 
1) Portland, ME
2) Fort Myers, FL 
3) Pawtucket, RI 
4) Boston, MA 
5) Sarasota, FL 
6) Baltimore, MD 
7) Gwinnett, GA 
8) Atlanta, GA 
9) Orlando, FL 
10) Manchester, NH
11) Nashville, TN 
12) Bradenton, FL 
13) Indianapolis, IN 
14) Tampa, FL 
15) Scranton, PA 
16) Denver, CO 
17) Los Angeles, CA 

That would be the number of places we have "lived" - paid rent, had a job, spent some significant time. There are many, many more places and teams that we have played on, but the duration didn't feel like we lived in those cities. That list probably adds another five-plus places to the list! 

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

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