Query prepares for spring training

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2011

By Mike London
Catcher Ryan Query played with five draft picks at Catawba, including Jerry Sands, the Los Angeles Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year for 2010.
Query batted well over .300 every year he was an Indian, but he was a bit awed by the talent he was surrounded by — fantastic players like Sands and SAC Player of the year David Thomas. Query didn’t really see himself as a potential pro until 2009, his senior season.
That’s the year he was Catawba’s team leader and made several Division II All-America teams. That’s the year he started driving the ball over the fences at Newman Park with regularity.
His 20 homers, 21 doubles and 75 RBIs (in a 54-game season) were all team highs. He batted .384, threw out 16 of 38 base-stealers and clocked 60-yard dash times as fast as some outfielders.
“My senior year at Catawba, everything clicked for me,” said Query, a 2005 graduate of A.L. Brown.
Scouts checked out Query frequently during the 2009 season, but he went undrafted because of his size. He’s about 5-foot-10.
That had to be a bitter disappointment, especially when teammates growing up in Kannapolis — Kyle Seager, Daniel Wagner, Garrett Sherrill and Russell Brewer — all had heard their names called on draft days.
“It is disappointing when you expect to be picked,” Query admitted. “[0x14]That was kind of a crazy time.”
Query didn’t gripe. He kept working on baseball, investigated his options with independent-league teams, assisted coach Jim Gantt with Catawba’s catchers and stayed in shape.
When the Atlanta Braves placed a phone call to Gantt last February, wondering if Query might still be available, he was hungry for his chance.
He understood the situation. The Braves signed him to provide depth for the organization at a position where injuries are frequent.
He knew at-bats might be sporadic. Still it was a chance to put on a jersey with a big ‘A’ across the front and play professional ball, and Query was anxious to find out if he was good enough — or not.
He played for three Braves farm clubs last summer, getting into 33 official games in a span of 10 weeks, stretching from mid-June to early September.
Most of his time was spent with the Gulf Coast League Braves, a rookie-level team, although he also got into a handful of games with Danville and Class A Rome.
Query grounded out in his first pro at-bat against a squad of Detroit Tigers rookies, but he homered to left off a promising Venezuelan with a wicked slider on his second trip to the plate.
He showed some power, belting five homers in 82 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League. He walked just once, probably because he was eager to swing every time his name was on the lineup card.
He returned home from his experience with the Braves more encouraged than discouraged.
He’s spent this offseason as a substitute teacher in the Kannapolis school system while providing baseball and softball lessons to youngsters.
He works out daily, is in the best shape of his life and plans to report to the Braves when pitchers and catchers head to Orlando, Fla., for Spring Training.
“I guess I spent a few months wondering if I’d be going back, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t,” Query said. “I proved some things to myself last summer, and I’m a much better player now than I was then. I’ve worked every day this offseason to develop my skills, to be the best player I can possibly be.”
Query realizes that as an undrafted player, he could be released at any time. He’s at the bottom of the food chain. And yet, there’s a chance he can earn a job. It’s never easy to find catchers.
“Ryan’s in a tough spot as a free-agent guy — I mean, he’s just got to go down there and dazzle them,” his long-time teammate and friend Sherrill said.
“Those draft picks who got bonus money, they’re going to get several opportunities before Ryan does. But I wouldn’t bet against him. I’ve never known anyone with a work ethic like he has.”