Maybe you all have heard of this guy, Ryan Christenson. He's Oakland's starting centerfielder and one of my favorite players. He's managed to wrap up the future CF job for Oakland having only played less that a year up in the big show.
This is quite an accomplishment in it's own right... In '97 Ryan started the season in Single-A Visalia, but made his way through the A's minor leagues with a giant leap up to Triple-A Edmonton for the Pacific Coast Playoffs. (Which the Trappers won!)
Coming into '98 Spring Training, Ryan was considered a contender for the CF job, but definitely not a front runner. However that all changed quickly when he busted out of the gates with a .349 BA and a .451 OBP. He played in almost every game and really opened alot of eyes while he was down there. One could have argued (me included) that he won the CF job coming out of Spring Training, but the A's went with the "veteran" Jason McDonald, because he had played competantly there the season before.
But it wasn't long into the season when McDonald went down onto the DL with his first injury. Ryan stepped in a did a reasonably good job. However once McDonald came back off the DL, the job was given back to him and Ryan was sent down to AAA.
A couple of weeks later, McDonald was a part of a most frightening collision in the outfield with Rickey Henderson. McDonald sustained a pretty bad concussion along with badly spraining his wrist. Ryan was called up quickly to take his place.
Right away he started astonishing people with his acrobatic catches, diving slides, and snagging of sure homeruns from above the outfield wall. His quickness and ability to jump and rob hitters of homeruns prompted me to make a banner for him that read "Flyin' Ryan".
When McDonald was nearing the end of his extended stint on the DL, Ryan had done such a great job as the centerfielder, Art Howe openly gave Ryan the nod as the A's centerfilder, even when McDonald returned. In Art's eyes, and everyone else's, Ryan had definitely earn his job.
While his awesome defense had remained top-notch, halfway through his time up with the big club last season Ryan began having a tougher time at the plate. He was somewhat hesitant and often struck out in some key situations. There were some grumblings that perhaps he was not ready to compete against big league pitchers.
That all changed starting with the series against Cleveland in August in Oakland. For a stretch of close to two weeks Christenson beat up American League pitchers and brought his average up around 30 points. At the end of the season, after playing in a total of 117 games he finshed with a .257 batting average and was the AL's most difficult player to double up.
All and all, a pretty good rookie season for the A's young centerfielder. If early signs are right, he could be our permanent centerfielder way into the next century. With Ryan in the outfield and all our many other talented young players locked into almost every other position in a few years the A's should come into thier own and make a run at the kind of dynasty we've seen from A's teams in the past.
Ryan Alan Christenson
1999 Opening Day Age: 25
Ryan's 1998 Stats