MINNEAPOLIS -- Team USA had just spent its first night in Tokyo when Mariners farmhand Eric Filia walked over and told a pair of his teammates that Nelson Cruz had been traded to the Rays. Someone would need to go to the Twins in return.
Joe Ryan and Shane Baz, both Tampa Bay prospects and roommates in the Olympic Village, looked at each other.
"It's one of us," they agreed.
And indeed, when Ryan checked his phone, he had an early-morning missed call from Rays general manager Erik Neander. Ryan called back and found out the news -- he and teammate Drew Strotman were heading to Minnesota -- and, well, nothing about Ryan's life materially changed.
Ryan, ranked the Twins' No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was still the ace of Team USA for its silver-medal push in Tokyo. He would still need to acclimate back to the United States upon his return. In fact, Ryan didn't arrive at Target Field for the first time until Sunday, when the Twins faced off against his former club in the finale of a three-game series.
"From the get-go, talked to a host of different people with the organization, and it was just across the board, 'Go win a medal. Go focus on that right now. We'll talk when you get back,'" Ryan said.
"Any time you get to put on that jersey, it's an amazing experience. Wearing it in Cary, [N.C.], for the prep games was an honor, and getting to throw that on and play the games in Tokyo was pretty special. The weight of the situation was definitely apparent in that first game."
And yes, the hardware came with Ryan for his introduction to his future teammates, which he coupled with his Team USA jersey and bucket hat as he also met the Twins' coaches and front-office executives.
"I think I’m going to bring [the medal] to the field today, get to show it off," Ryan said. "Probably wear some of this Olympic gear and make my girlfriend wear some Olympic gear. And my mom, too. I don’t know how much I’m going to be wearing the medal after this, but it’ll probably go to my mom and my dad, and have them enjoy it a little more."
Ryan got back to the United States late Monday night. He has been throwing every day as he got over his jet lag and packed up his life in Durham, N.C., setting up his move to the Twin Cities. He expected to throw a bullpen later on Sunday and hoped to get back on the mound in the coming week after he reports to Triple-A St. Paul.
And following two successful starts half a world away, he'll soon join Strotman, the club's No. 15 prospect, in getting to work for his new organization. There could be a chance that Ryan surfaces in the big leagues in September as the Twins continue to take an extended look at their young arms who could factor into the 2022 mix, including Bailey Ober, Griffin Jax, Charlie Barnes and, potentially soon, Lewis Thorpe.
But Ryan isn't even looking that far ahead right now. He's staying grounded in his process, not getting too antsy with the anticipation of his upcoming new life in the Twin Cities.
"I’m not too worried about anything," Ryan said. "Not getting too antsy. Just trying to stay where my feet are at, as cliché as it sounds, it’s helped me a lot. Just keeping me with the mental game strong."
That's made easier by the fact that Ryan has a familiar face waiting for him in St. Paul, with Strotman already having made three starts for the Saints. And one of the Twins' big Trade Deadline acquisitions, No. 3 prospect Simeon Woods Richardson, was Ryan's roommate during Olympic qualifiers.
And following the memorable routine he fell into as part of Team USA -- early breakfast, morning workouts, afternoon practice -- Ryan will now have to quickly transition back into an old and new pro ball routine that he'll hope to bring back to Target Field before the season is over.
"You get to hang out with some of the best baseball players that I grew up watching," Ryan said. "You're teammates and roommates now. So that was an amazing experience and just getting to explore the village, it was an awesome opportunity. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. An amazing experience, regardless of COVID or not."
Varela out with COVID-19
The Twins announced on Sunday that co-hitting coach Edgar Varela left the team and returned home to Florida last week to attend to a family COVID-19 issue. Varela has since also tested positive, which should delay his return to the club. His positive test result occurred while home in Fort Myers, Fla., and not while he was in Minneapolis in the Twins' environment.
'The Bachelorette' comes to Target Field
Spoiler alert! The Bachelor-verse briefly encompassed Target Field on Sunday, when upcoming "Bachelorette" star Michelle Young, a Woodbury, Minn., native and elementary school teacher, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game as part of a date with contestant Joe Coleman.