After a minor-league game last August, everything seemed normal to Ryan Dull. The manager shook each player’s hand, but as soon as he got to Dull, everything changed.
He shook Dull’s hand, then immediately dragged him into the office with all of the coaches, where he would get the news that would change his life: He had received the call to the big leagues to pitch for the Oakland Athletics.
After telling Dull the news, the coaches took Dull back in to the clubhouse to tell his teammates that he was getting called up to be a major-league pitcher.
“You dream of how it’s going to happen, then it actually happens and you are speechless,” Dull said in a phone interview.
Getting to that point came with plenty of struggles, however. In high school, Dull didn’t look the part of a future major-league pitcher.
“I was the scrawny little kid that had glasses and braces, not an intimidating guy on the mound,” Dull said.
In college at UNC-Asheville, Dull was still on the smaller side and was always trying to show the coaches he could play at that level. There was also a coaching change after his freshman year, which he says was another challenge.
“It was another group of coaches that you had to try to impress.”
As his time at UNC-Asheville continued, Dull stepped up as a leader to his younger, more inexperienced teammates. It wasn’t a role that came naturally to the quiet pitcher, but he eventually embraced it. He was not a “rah rah type of guy,” preferring to lead by example, but he stepped out of his comfort zone and found a good balance of talk and action.
“My coaching staff was trying to get me to talk,” Dull said of his early days at the university. “By my senior year, the coaches said I had talked more than the previous three years combined.”
After college, Dull declared for the draft and was selected in the 32nd round by the Athletics. At 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, he still had a lot to prove in the professional ranks.
The transition to pro ball was initially a bit overwhelming, but pitching coordinator Garvin Alston helped mold him into the pitcher he is today.
“Alston taught me how to attack hitters once you get into your advantage count, like 0-2, 1-2,” said Dull. “He had me work on it every day and mentally train myself to be able to attack.”
Dull was a scrawny kid with glasses and braces. Then he was the small pitcher picked late in the draft. Now he is a major leaguer. Needless to say, Dull’s journey has been a unique one.
The journey is not over. The life of a young relief pitcher is one constant battle for a roster spot. But if one thing is evident, it’s that you should never count Dull out, no matter the circumstance.