Larkin grad Sienko continues to savor coaching career with Dodgers
Being in the right place at the right time has paid big dividends for Ryan Sienko, not to mention his interaction with one legendary baseball icon who recently passed away.
Sienko, a 1993 graduate of Larkin High School in Elgin, is entering his seventh season as the Los Angeles Dodgers' catching coordinator.
In that role, Sienko works with all the catchers in the team's system, from the rookies to the major leaguers.
"I'm the technical guy on a lot of stuff," Sienko said from his home in Arizona before going to an instructional session and while waiting to hear spring training plans.
"I'm in constant contact with the front office, I'll travel between the minor league teams and the major league team. It's great. Right now we're trying to expand into more game catching and game planning."
Sienko, who coached high school teams in California and was a scout for the Baltimore Orioles before landing the job with the Dodgers, credits much of his rise to his current job to former Major League pitcher Tom House, who was Nolan Ryan's pitching coach when Ryan played for the Texas Rangers. Sienko's work with several national organizations and his association with House led him to the West Coast, where he's been since the early 2000s.
"I can't even tell you how much I learned from (House)," said Sienko, who founded Catch & Throw in 2005 after House became the head coach at USC.
Another connection that helped Sienko was his friendship with former White Sox pitcher Jack McDowell, who introduced Sienko to Gabe Kapler, the current manager of the San Francisco Giants who in 2015 was the Dodgers' player development director.
"I coached his kids and coached against him," Sienko said of McDowell. "He introduced me to Gabe Kapler and that led to this job. It was kind of a different path but I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's a great organization to work for. We get great support from everyone and we have the freedom to experiment with our players."
Working for the World Series champs and one of the most successful MLB franchises in history makes Sienko's job a little more challenging, but it also opens more opportunities.
"With the team being so good, it's just anything we can do to support the pitching staff," said Sienko, who played at the University of Iowa and eight seasons professionally with the White Sox and Rangers organizations and independent league teams.
"We're not just working with on-field stuff but also how (the catchers) go about their communication with pitchers, their body language, how they receive and block."
His responsibilities also include catching philosophies and drills, deciphering receiving metrics, blocking philosophies and drills, throwing philosophies and drills, coordinating player plans, working with the research and development department and drills and skill work.
Sienko, a 2012 Elgin Sports Hall of Fame inductee, also had the pleasure over the years of interacting with former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who passed away last week.
"I'd see him every spring training," said Sienko, who lives outside of Phoenix with his wife Andrea, daughter Kacey and son Brycen.
"Eric Karros and I would always help Tommy out of the dugout and into his cart. He had such a unique perspective on how the game should be played and he kept up with the times.
"You'd be sitting in the dugout next to him and one minute he'd be asleep, then the next minute he'd see something on the field and comment on it. Seeing him these past five to six spring trainings was really special ... really neat."
Just as Sienko's career with the Dodgers has been.