Path of the Pros: Ryan Doumit
Pirates' catcher didn't let injuries derail his dreams
If there's one fact Tony Beasley wants you to know about Ryan Doumit, it's that the Pirates catcher hates to lose.
"The thing [other people don't realize] is how big of a competitor he is," said Beasley, who has been a part of the Pirates organization for the past 17 seasons and currently serves as Pittsburgh's third-base coach.
Even as Doumit was just a scrawny 18-year-old prospect from Washington, Beasley -- who first met Doumit when he served as a hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Pirates in 1999 -- was impressed with the way the young catcher carried himself.
"To see how determined he was to win, he absolutely hated to lose with a passion," Beasley recalled.
"He didn't like to feel like he was defeated; his level of confidence was so high. Those are the things that stood out to me."
Doumit wasted no time setting himself apart as well. Selected by the Pirates in the second round of the 1999 Draft, he followed up a short stint in the GCL with a standout season for Class A Short Season Williamsport, batting .313 with a team-leading 40 RBIs in the New York-Penn League.
"The transition to playing in the Gulf Coast League from high school was a smooth one because the situations were similar," Doumit said. "There weren't any large stadiums and the crowds were pretty small. I didn't feel blown away by it at all."
Just 20 years old, Doumit accelerated through three levels in 2001, ending with Double-A Altoona and establishing himself as one of the Pirates' most promising young prospects. But various injuries -- including a broken finger and a hand injury suffered from a backswing at Class-A Advanced Hickory -- slowed Doumit's development over the next few years.
The young backstop was also plagued by back injuries, and didn't complete a full Minor League season until 2003. But when Doumit was healthy, there was no denying his talent. Reunited with Beasley at Hickory in 2002, Doumit hit .322 with 47 RBIs in 67 games for the South Atlantic League-champion Crawdads. The following season, he established career highs in games played (127), homers (11), and RBIs (77) in Lynchburg, connecting for a team-leading 38 doubles.
By the time Doumit worked his way back up to Double-A, where he spent the entire 2004 season, Beasley had little doubt the catcher would soon don Pirates' gold.
"I knew for sure that he was a Major League player because one thing [was] sure -- he had the knack to hit," Beasley said. "He could put the bat on the ball, he had power and he was a switch hitting catcher. He was a very, good athletic guy behind the plate."
Doumit's athleticism was enhanced thanks to rigorous core workouts and training sessions designed to strengthen his back and help the once-scrawny catcher fill out. The new physique, coupled with Doumit's intensity, kept the power-hitting prospect on the Pirates' radar despite his injuries.
And while Doumit's competitive juices are sometimes misconstrued, even at the Major League level, Beasley can only think of one incident in 11 years when he needed to discipline the backstop.
Playing with the Arizona Fall League's Mesa Desert Dogs in 2003, Doumit and former teammate Chris Duffy (now an outfielder in the Phillies organization) decided meet the team at the field rather than taking the team bus to the game.
"It was the first time I really had to come down on them," said Beasley of the pair of players who he affectionately refers to as sons. "For the next week they were the first ones at the ballpark and the last ones to leave."
It wasn't quite as light of a punishment as it might seem.
"There was this player [Kansas City's J.R. House], who would roll in around 7 [a.m.] every day, so we had to get there around 6:45 just to beat him," Doumit recalled. "And we had to wait around for guys to shower and finish playing cards at the end of the day -- and that was usually around 4:00. That made for a really long day at the park."
"Duffy and I still talk about that and how the punishment certainly fit the crime."
But aside from that minor lapse in judgment, Beasley is quick to point out that Doumit "has always been a professional."
By the middle of 2005 it was only a matter of time before the Pirates recalled the International League leader in RBIs, a moment that came when Doumit dug in at the plate in a bases-loaded scenario for Triple-A Indianapolis.
"Our manager [Trent Jewett] signaled for a pinch-hitter. I was thinking 'What did I do wrong?' or 'Am I in trouble for something?'," Doumit recalled. "Once I got back to the bench and put my bat in the rack, I looked at the players on the bench and they had a weird look on their faces and it hit me. And I realized I was going to the big leagues."
Now, with parts of five seasons in the Majors under his belt, Doumit will be critical to a young Pittsburgh team's success in 2010.
"[The injuries] are the unfortunate part of his career, even in the Majors," Beasley said. "I'd like to really see him healthy."
"The thing about Ryan Doumit is he's tough. If it's not a legitimate injury, he's in the lineup. He's one of the toughest guys I know. He will play hurt, he will play injured. He is a gamer."
1999:Doumit is drafted in the second round and begins his career with the GCL Pirates. The 18-year-old hits .282 with seven RBIs in 29 games.
2000: In his first full year, Doumit hits .313 with 40 RBIs for the short-season Crosscutters.
2001: Although he traveled through three different levels, Doumit spent the majority of the season in Hickory, where he caught 23 games.
2002: In his second stint with the Crawdads, Doumit hit .322, but committed seven errors behind the plate.
2003: In Class A Advanced Lynchburg, Doumit established a new career high in games played and was ranked among Pittsburgh's top 10 prospects.
2004:In Double-A, Doumit continued to wield a dangerous bat, clubbing 10 homers and 34 RBIs in 67 games for Altoona.
2005: Doumit lit up Triple-A pitching for a .345 average and was called up to the big leagues in June.
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.