3,000 catchers joined Israel's Ryan Lavarnway for Quarantine Challenge Workouts on Facebook

3,000 catchers joined Israel's Ryan Lavarnway for Quarantine Challenge Workouts on Facebook
The 32-year old catcher was a standout for Israel during the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He had the idea of Quarantine Workouts watching John Legend's concert on Instagram Live.

After helping Israel to qualify for the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC), Ryan Lavarnway was instrumental in Israel's win over world's No. 3 Korea and No. 4 Chinese Taipei in the opening round of the global event. He was named MVP of the group, collecting five hits in nine at-bats.

Before the tournament, Lavarnway made a touching statement: "Two generations ago, the way that this team was put together would have meant that we were being killed…It means a lot more than that we're here."

Lavarnway was born in August 1987 in California, USA. He was a Philosophy Major at Yale University and starred for the Yale Bulldogs.

"It's funny you call me a star because while I was in college, I never felt like that," Lavarnway told WBSC. "I was just a member of our team trying to do the best we could."

He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2008 and made it to the big leagues in 2011. He has appeared in 151 MLB games since then, representing the Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles, the Oakland A's, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds.

He has some advice for players who think about transitioning from amateur to pro: "Just stay hungry, enjoy what you are doing and be the best you can."

During his career, Lavarnway also appeared in 885 Minor League Baseball (MiLB) games. He was supposed to start the 2020 season at AAA for the Miami Marlins. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic put his season on hold.

"I was watching the developments on the news and didn't know what to expect. I think the realization that this thing that felt far away was going to affect everybody hit people at different times. We heard rumours going around the clubhouse during spring training that 'today is going to be the day everything gets cancelled' as we were heading out to play a game against the Cardinals. It was hard to focus on the game we were playing while also knowing what was happening outside the lines."

On 26 March, Lavarnway lived a different type of opening day.

Lavarnway decided he had to #StayStrong. Also, he could help others. That's why he created a Facebook group called Catcher Workouts-Quarantine Challenge.

"I first thought of doing the quarantine workouts when I saw John Legend doing a free concert on Instagram Live. He was playing for the world because the world needed it. And during the concert at one point his wife, Chrissy Teigen, asked 'Is anybody even watching?' And 95,000 people were! I thought of baseball players are stuck at home, and their season has been cancelled… and thought if I could get anybody to watch and workout with me, maybe we could get through this together. It's pretty cool that almost 3,000 catchers have been joining me every day."

Lavarnway has been a member of the Israeli Baseball National Team since 2013. "Peter Kurz (then the President of Israel Baseball) reached out to me to see if I was interested and it was a no-brainer. I was excited at the chance to play!"

He couldn't contribute during the summer of 2019 when Israel qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

"I was on a AAA team here in the states, Columbus Clippers (AAA Cleveland Indians). I was planning on flying to the European Championship as soon as our last game was over but we made playoffs, and kept winning (ended up winning the league championship)… and by the time I was available, it was too late to get there."

He will still have a chance to represent Israel in the Olympics.

"The Olympics is the biggest worldwide sports event in the world, and something I never even imagined I'd have a chance to participate in. I am over the moon at the opportunity."

Ryan Lavarnway supports the decision to postpone the Games to 2021.

"I think the postponement is the right thing to do given the state of the world. Athletes need to be able to train properly and fans need to be safe to watch. An extra year will just give everyone another year to get even more excited about it!"

On a final note, Lavarnway has thoughts to share with his fellow athletes: "#StaySafe, stay sane," he says.

"We may return to a new normal… but we will return to normal soon."