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Ryan Garko : biography

January 2, 1981 -

Ryan Francis Garko (born January 2, 1981 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is a professional baseball outfielder, first baseman, and designated hitter, who most recently played for the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization. In college, he was a catcher. He has played for the Cleveland Indians, the San Francisco Giants, and the Texas Rangers in Major League Baseball. Garko is seen by former ESPN reporter John Sickels as a good hitter who hits to all parts of the field, but with poor defensive instincts. He is not strikeout prone; however, he does not generate a large number of walks.

When he attended Stanford University, Garko won the Johnny Bench Award and was named the Pac-10 Co-Player of the Year his senior year. He was also voted onto the College World Series Legends Team, featuring 28 of the best College World Series players as voted upon by fans, writers, and head coaches. During his time in the Cleveland Indians' organization, Garko was converted into a first baseman. In , Baseball America ranked him as the fifth best prospect in the Indians organization, including being the best at hitting for average.

Professional career

Cleveland Indians

2003–2004 seasons

Garko was selected as a catcher by the Cleveland Indians in the third round (78th overall) of the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft. On July 8, 2003, he signed a contract with the Indians and was assigned to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the New York – Penn League. In his first professional season, Garko batted .273 with eight doubles, one triple, four home runs, and 16 RBIs in 45 games. The next season, , he split time between the Class-A Advanced Kinston Indians, the Double-A Akron Aeros, and the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. During April, he was named the "Player of the Month" in the Carolina League. He was also named the 13th best prospect in the Carolina League by Baseball America. He batted a combined .330 with 33 doubles, one triple, 22 home runs, and 99 RBIs in 113 games with all three leagues. Garko was third in the Carolina League in batting average with a .328 clip, and sixth in home runs with 16. At the end of the season, he was named the Cleveland Indians' minor league player of the year by USA Today. Garko participated in the Arizona Fall League at the end of the 2004 season. With the Peoria Javelinas in the AFL, he batted .348 with 21 runs, 40 hits, 9 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs, and 30 RBIs in 30 games. He was named to the AFL Raising Stars team, an all-star team voted upon by managers and coaches.

2005 season

In , Garko spent spring training with the Indians, but he was returned to the minor leagues before the regular season. He spent most of the season with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. He hit .303 with 19 home runs, and 77 RBIs in 127 games. Halfway through the 2005 season, Garko was selected to the International League all-star team. He was also selected to the All-Star Futures Game in Detroit, Michigan. On September 18, 2005, Garko made his major league debut against the Kansas City Royals, appearing as a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning. For the second straight season, Garko played in the Arizona Fall League at the end of the season. This time, Garko played for the Mesa Solar Sox. He batted .314 with 10 runs, 27 hits, 9 doubles, 5 home runs, and 27 RBIs in 23 games.

2006 season

Entering the season, Baseball America ranked Garko as the fifth best prospect in the Indians' organization and the best at hitting for average. Garko attended spring training with the Indians in . He was sent to Triple-A before the start of the season and began his season with the Buffalo Bisons. He injured his left wrist on April 21, but was not placed on the disabled list after x-rays turned up negative for a break. Garko hit .247 with 15 home runs, and 59 RBIs in 127 games at the Triple-A level. Garko was tied for second in bases on balls (45); and was tied for third in home runs, and RBIs on the Bisons' roster at the end of the season. He was called up by the Indians on June 30, after Cleveland traded first baseman Eduardo Pérez to the Seattle Mariners. His first major league hit, a double, came on July 1, against the Cincinnati Reds. He hit his first home run a little over a month later, on August 10, against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Although Garko favored his traditional position of catcher, the Indians moved him to first base so he would have a better chance of competing for a major league roster spot. By September, he was the starting everyday first baseman for the Indians after Ben Broussard was traded to Seattle. Garko finished the season with a .292 batting average, 12 doubles, seven home runs, and 45 RBIs in 50 games at the major league level.

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