Ron Mahay has had an atypical career, to say the least. The Twins reliever is in his 20th professional season, and with his ninth organization, how he got from point A to point B, and beyond, is what makes him unique. Originally drafted by the Red Sox in 1991, he made his big-league debut as an outfielder in 1995 before returning to the minor leagues and being converted to a pitcher. Mahay was also a replacement player during the 1994-1995 work stoppage and, as a result, has been denied admission to the MLB Players Association.
David Laurila: How would you describe your career thus far?
Ron Mahay: It’s been a great experience. Obviously, I was an outfielder for the first five years of my career. After that I was very fortunate and blessed to have the team I was with let me make the transition from hitter to pitcher and I haven’t looked back since.
DL: Coming up through the minor leagues, were you conflicted as to whether your career was better served in the outfield or on the mound?
RM: Not in that respect. I always knew in the back of my mind that if hitting didn’t work out I would try to pitch and if it didn’t happen with the team that I was with, I would try to go on with another team. I was originally going to be drafted to pitch, as well. Boston took me to play the outfield, but Pittsburgh was going to take me as a pitcher if I was still available when they picked again.
DL: Was there ever a time where you thought about walking away from the game?
RM: When I was a hitter, I couldn’t tell you how many times I went through, “This will never go; I just want to hang them up.” Hitting for me was such a battle. Playing the outfield was fun for me. It was easy and I knew how to do that really well, but when it came to hitting, I wanted to quit many, many times. I couldn’t tell you how many times.
DL: What about after you moved to the mound?
RM: No, because I knew that I was a left-hander and that I threw hard. It was just a matter of building that confidence on the mound, which is what would carry me. I always knew that I could make it as a pitcher. I’ve never doubted that.
DL: Before becoming a pitcher, you were a replacement player in the 1994-1995 work stoppage. How has that impacted your career?
RM: It doesn’t really affect me. The only thing I don’t get from that is the check every spring training.
DL: What went into the decision to be a replacement player?
RM: I was in a spot where it was a one-time tempter to actually make it to the big leagues and/or play professional baseball. It was basically filling out a kid’s dream, and I was put into a spot where there was no turning back from it. It was either you help us out or you go home and wait for the phone call again — for us to call you back — if that was the case. When you have a head guy from an organization come down on you and ask you, point-blank, if you would help them out, and there is no timetable of when they might call you back…my fate and my dreams were in the hands of this one answer. I mean, it took some time to convince myself that it was something I really wanted to pursue. I did what I thought was best for me at the time.