From Minor League Baseball to a Major Ode

It had been a long three months for the Phoenix resident, a starting pitcher with a funkier delivery than most other CanAm League Hurlers. The Tornadoes were all but eliminated from the playoffs in early September when the 10-year vet uttered, “I can’t wait to hold my daughter.”

Ryan Bicondoa came to Worcester as a mid-season hired gun, per the suggestion of friend, former teammate & battery-mate, Alex Trezza (the Worcester catcher). The Tornadoes were the second-worst team in the league to that point in the season, lacking a cohesive approach in a two-week, season-opening skid. One of their starting pitchers had already been released (after just two starts), and another would soon follow. By the end of the year, only two of the original five starters were still in the rotation.

With the majority of Worcester’s allowed veterans (a maximum of four, per league rules) in the field, the Tornadoes had to rely on younger pitchers, some of them up to the challenge, some of them at a low point in what turned out to be a decent season for the pitchers collectively. After a couple of short starts at the back-end of the rotation, Bicondoa moved up to the number two slot and was arguably the Tornadoes’ best pitcher for a good chunk of the season.

It wasn’t his on-field performance that was most impressive about the former Yankees farm hand (or his worshiping of Derek Jeter). It wasn’t the “That’s what she said,” jokes, the spot-on impressions of various people in cities on team road trips or even the puns that rivaled mine for most mind-boggling or most ironically hilarious, depending on your point of view.

Bic is a player, a pitcher and a person with his priorities in focus at all times, whether his sense of humor would lead you to believe it or not. He earned just as much respect from the rest of the team as the lone former Major Leaguer, Abraham Nunez. For a guy who occasionally yelled Arnold Schwarzenegger catchphrases with Austrian authority, that might be a surprise.

The only thing more important to Bic than baseball is his family. A couple of times during the season, he mentioned that his wife, daughter and a few other Bicondoas would be tuning in. I made sure that each and every one of them knew Ryan appreciated their support over the air. Call it coincidence or the work of a higher power, but those starts happened to be among his best all year.

Perhaps he’s like anyone else who’s bounced around between six different leagues, hardened by the reality that the bigs aren’t calling anytime soon but protecting a soft spot for playing the game. Maybe Ryan really is no different from most other Indy Ball players out there, holding onto one last glimmer of hope, or at least the joy of suiting up every summer day and throwing one out of five. On a few varying accounts, he may be similar to anyone else who plays baseball for a living, but putting all of his qualities together, you’d find it challenging to find a perfect match.

Ryan Bicondoa was exactly what the Worcester GM bargained for when he pondered bringing the three-quarters-arm-angle-with-sidearm-hand pitcher in: a veteran presence that resuscitated what could have been a lost season with a great mindset no matter what his surroundings were.

The 2011 Worcester Tornadoes Season may be over, but if there’s one positive to come out of just barely missing the playoffs, it’s that Ryan held his daughter a few days sooner.

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