SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Giants prospect Ryan Howard is used to getting letters that include cards for the other Ryan Howard, but two years ago, the mixup was taken to extreme levels.
Howard was playing a minor league game in Stockton when an autograph-seeker actually walked up and handed him a card for the former National League MVP. The two are both from the St. Louis area, but other than that they have little in common but their name.
“I kind of looked at it and laughed,” said Howard, the young infielder. “And then I handed it back to him.”
It’s rare that someone makes the mistake in person, but three or four times a year, the 24-year-old opens up his mail at the ballpark and finds a card for the Ryan Howard who hit 382 homers in 13 seasons for the Phillies. Last week, the Giants held a meeting with members of the MLB Players Association and one member of the group came up to Howard and admitted she thought the former Phillies star had signed a minor league deal with the Giants.
Howard was sent a Phillies card earlier in camp and had it displayed on his locker in the Scottsdale Stadium clubhouse.
The Giants’ Ryan Howard has a sense of humor about the confusion, though. He actually thinks it boosted his career a bit.
“It’s cool, and I honestly think that growing up it kind of helped me as far as going to showcases,” he said, smiling. “People always remembered my name.”
Howard is now trying to make his own name, although even that effort includes a comparison to an established big leaguer. Giants people believe the shortstop is an underrated prospect, comparing him to Matt Duffy, another middle infielder who was never highly touted but worked his way into a solid big league career. This is one comparison that makes a lot more sense to Howard.
“I love being compared to a Matt Duffy type,” he said. “I’ve always had respect for guys that work hard to get where they’re at and maybe aren’t the most physically gifted. But it’s kind of like, hey, I don’t care what these guys say and what the prospect rankings say, I’m going to go go out and focus on me and I know the rest will take care of itself.
"I try not to worry about rankings and that stuff too much. I know that if I play well and put up good numbers, it’ll all fall into place.”
The Giants liked Howard so much that they took him twice in the MLB draft, and he signed after going in the fifth round in 2016. He has put up a .287/.335/.391 slash line in the minors, and batted .273 last season in Double-A with 32 doubles. The Giants are hopeful more power develops as Howard, a good contact hitter, matures. That's another area where the Duffy comparison comes in.
Howard has primarily been a shortstop in the minors, but spent the offseason doing work at second and third to increase his versatility. The Giants are set at shortstop at the big league level, but they don’t have much middle infield depth at the upper levels of the minors, and Howard has put himself in position to get a shot soon.
He’s ready to introduce Giants fans to their own Ryan Howard.
“It’s kind of cool in some ways having the same name as a guy that’s been an MVP,” he said, “But hopefully I can kind of make my own path, too.”