Ryan Buchter doesn’t take anything for granted, a South Jersey native who’s reached his ultimate goal but continues to compete every day as if it were his first.
His journey has had its share of ups and downs – stops in small towns and big cities, long bus rides and chartered planes, economy hotels to some of the best around. He’s living the life of a professional baseball player, one who started at the bottom and worked his way to the top.
“That’s why I don’t like to feel too settled, because of what I went through,” said Buchter, a 2005 Highland High School graduate in his second season with the San Diego Padres, who will visit Citizens Bank Park this weekend for a three-game series against the Phillies. “I like to feel a little bit of adversity.
“One of the hardest parts is getting here. Now that I’m here, the hardest part is staying. You want to stay and last a little bit, and I’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish that.”
A left-handed reliever, Buchter has been a member of five Major League organizations. He was drafted in the 33rd round by the Washington Nationals in 2005 and has also been a part of the Cubs, Braves, Dodgers and Padres.
Along the way, Buchter made 11 minor-league stops. He was traded twice, been released, pitched in the Mexican Winter League and came close to playing in Japan.
Through it all, he never lost focus of what he wanted to do.
“It’s nice to be up here instead of the minor leagues that’s for sure,” he said.
Heading into Thursday night’s interleague game against the Cleveland Indians, the 30-year-old is 3-3 with a 3.03 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings. He’s been San Diego’s seventh-inning man, generally working no more than one frame.
When looking at his numbers, Buchter feels he could be pitching better. In 67 games last season, he went 3-0 with a 2.86 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 63 innings out of the bullpen. He takes the mound each time with the mindset that he still has something to prove.
“Everybody has their little vices and, for me, that’s one of mine,” he said. “People see you come into the seventh inning of a one-run game and it’s ‘who’s that guy?’ I kind of like that.
“Last year I had a really good year; I keep comparing to last year. I’ve run into some pretty bad luck this year and feel I should be better. I keep trying to compare myself and that’s the hard part.”
In his first four July appearances, Buchter had six K’s and no walks in 3 2/3 innings with a 2.45 ERA.
“For me, it’s trying to have that confidence,” he said. “The way I throw, I feel I’m a little different than others. I don’t try to trick guys by changing speeds, keeping them off-balance. I need to have confidence in my stuff and what I’m throwing. In the past, I’ve lacked a little confidence based on the team we’re playing or the guys I’m facing.
“(Tuesday night against Cleveland) a guy got a leadoff double. I had to turn around and tell myself that I wasn’t going to let him score.”
Carlos Santana was left stranded as Buchter struck out Bradley Zimmer and Yan Gomes before getting Jason Kipnis out on a foul pop-up to first baseman Wil Myers.
Over the next few days, Buchter is likely to have his own fan section at CBP. The All-Star break begins after Sunday’s series finale and he’ll finally get to spend some time in Ocean City before the Padres host NL West rival San Francisco next weekend.
Despite spending a lot of time now in Southern California, Ryan Bucher remains true to his roots.
“I haven’t been there in at least 15 years,” he said of the shore town.
“I still live in New Jersey. … I’m coming home. It’s definitely where I would like to make my home, buy a forever house. That’s where I’m from, where my family is.”
Ryan Buchter is in his second season with the San Diego Padres. The left-hander was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2005. Photos courtesy of the San Diego Padres