On the Wiffle ball field, Diamondbacks’ Ryan Thompson learned different pitching styles

Oct 21, 2023, 1:16 PM | Updated: Oct 23, 2023, 8:52 am

Ryan Thompson...

Ryan Thompson #81 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game Three of the Division Series at Chase Field on October 11, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks side-arm reliever Ryan Thompson practiced pitching like the pros while playing Wiffle ball in his backyard with friends growing up in Oregon.

They competed in “Major League Wiffle Ball,” where they picked a team and impersonated MLB players’ batting stances and pitching motions.

“Me and my neighbors’ kids, we broke down all the rosters of all the teams and we had them in our little binder,” Thompson said. “When we would play, we would pick a team. ‘Today I’m going to be the Diamondbacks. Today I’m going to be the Red Sox,’ whatever it was. If we hit, we had to mimic that batting stance. If we pitched — we didn’t have to throw lefty, we had to hit lefty, but we didn’t have to throw lefty — but we had to mimic everybody’s mechanics.”

Around that time, Thompson grew an affinity for Diamondbacks side-arm closer Byung-hyun Kim. The D-backs won the 2001 World Series when Thompson was 9 years old.

Years later, while he was at a camp in high school, Thompson was open to the idea of applying some of Kim’s mechanics to his game.

“I needed to tell my dad, ‘Hey, I can be like Byung-hyun Kim,'” Thompson said. “We practiced it every day for like three months. All of a sudden, I went from sophomore year not being very good to junior year I was breaking records at my high school.”

Thompson remembers moving furniture around a warehouse with his father — whom he described as a huge baseball fan — to fit a mound so he could practice.

Having that experience with his dad helped spark a dream to play baseball.

Thompson made first team all-state as a senior at Cascade High School with his new delivery, but he said he didn’t get any calls to play Division I. So the future big leaguer went to Chemeketa Community College in Oregon. From there, he transferred to Campbell, where he got drafted by the Houston Astros in the 23rd round of the 2014 draft. Now, the MLB Draft is only 20 rounds.

“I always had a desire to play Division I once I started performing in high school,” Thompson said. “I was really ignorant at that time. I went to a really small school, so I was performing really well, so I was like, ‘University of Oregon, Oregon State, maybe I’ll get drafted.’ Nobody gives me calls or anything.”

Houston lost Thompson in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft to the Tampa Bay Rays, where the right-hander got his big break. He reached the majors in 2020 and pitched 120.2 innings for the Rays until they cut him this year.

The D-backs pounced, and now they count on Thompson to record outs deep in the postseason, and he is now two wins away from the World Series. Entering Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, the 6-foot-5 reliever has thrown 8.0 innings with three earned runs and eight strikeouts.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks Championship Series...

Alex Weiner

Diamondbacks enter winter meetings with clear priorities

Major League Baseball's winter meetings begin Monday in Nashville with most free agent dominoes yet to fall.

5 hours ago

Chris Garagiola named new play-by-play radio voice of the Arizona Diamondbacks...

Arizona Sports

Chris Garagiola replaces Greg Schulte as Arizona Diamondbacks radio voice

Chris Garagiola will replace Greg Schulte as the Arizona Diamondbacks' radio play-by-play voice starting in 2024.

2 days ago

Deyvison De Los Santos...

Alex Weiner

Diamondbacks to watch in upcoming Rule 5 Draft include De Los Santos, Robinson

The Rule 5 Draft is quickly approaching, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have some notable names unprotected such as Deyvison De Los Santos.

2 days ago

General manager Mike Hazen...

Alex Weiner

Diamondbacks pick Shaun Larkin for director of player development

The Diamondbacks hired Shaun Larkin as their new director of player development and promoted Chris Slivka to assistant farm director.

2 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Can the Arizona Diamondbacks trade for Randy Arozarena? Gambo shares what he knows

Can the Arizona Diamondbacks trade for Randy Arozarena? Gambo shares what he knows. Video: Felisa Cárdenas and Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports

2 days ago

Jorge Soler #12 of the Miami Marlins celebrates with teammates in the dugout after scoring during t...

David Veenstra

ESPN’s Schoenfield: Under-the-radar MLB free agents for Diamondbacks to consider

While Shohei Ohtani will command most of the attention this offseason, there is still value to be had elsewhere on the open market.

3 days ago

On the Wiffle ball field, Diamondbacks’ Ryan Thompson learned different pitching styles