Luzinski's son makes name for himself as top high school prospect

May 31, 1992|By New York Times News Service

DELRAN, N.J. -- The home run was reminiscent of one of those tape-measure monsters his father, Greg, used to hit. Ryan Luzinski, of Holy Cross High School, stunned observers when he sent a fastball against Lenape High sailing through the goal posts in left-center field, about 400 feet from home plate.

"People who watch me bat for the first time expect to see the rebirth of him," Ryan said about his father. "They expect to see these moon shots come frequently. But I'm not the same type of player that he was."

Greg Luzinski was one of the most feared power hitters of the 1970s. He belted 307 home runs and drove in 1,128 runs in 15 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox.

The former all-star retired in 1984 and has run the baseball program at Holy Cross ever since. Luzinski's star pupil, for the past four seasons, has been his son.

"I wanted to teach him how to play the game the right way," Greg said.

Ryan has learned well. He is one of the premier catchers in the nation and is expected to be chosen somewhere in the first round of the amateur draft tomorrow. Ryan, a senior, already has signed a letter of intent with the University of Miami.

"It comes down to what team drafts him and what they offer in monetary funds," Greg said. "Why should he give up a scholarship to a good academic school if a team is not serious about signing him?"

Ryan, who chomps on bubble gum instead of tobacco, agrees.

"If I wind up going to Miami, it's not going to be like, 'God, I have to go to that school,' " he said. "But if a team matches the money that Iwant, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't take it. Ever since I could remember I wanted to play baseball. And if I'm given a shot to play, I'm going to go for it."

As the younger Luzinski speaks, his mannerisms and facial expressions mirror that of his father's, sparking the inevitable comparisons.

"It's hard to compare the two because Greg was an outfielder and Ryan is a catcher," said Ron Fraser, baseball coach at Miami. "But they sure do look alike."

The nickname, "The Bull," that Greg earned for his massive size during his playing days easily could be passed on to the next generation. Like his father, Ryan never has lifted weights before, but his muscular, 6-foot-1-inch frame has inspired many writers to dub him, somewhat predictably, "The Baby Bull." And Ryan already has claimed the No. 19 his father once wore.

"When people see me, they say that I look like him when he was the same age," Ryan said. "But if you watched us as ballplayers you'd see that we're alike in the way we act, but different in the way we play."

Ryan has the same strong arm, quick feet and soft hands that Greg began his career with before being slowed by knee surgery and continuous weight problems. Luzinski reportedly weighed 270 pounds when he retired at age 34.

"I saw Greg when he played for Huron in the Northern League," said Jay Hankins, the scouting director for the Philadelphia Phillies. "And I'll tell you their physical characteristics are very similar. Ryan is fast for a big man just like Greg was. It's almost like deja vu."

Ryan appears to be more of a line-drive hitter than his father, the slugger. Ryan is known to be an all-around player, who can throw runners out as well as steal bases. Ryan runs the 40-yard -- in 4.6 seconds. Through 17 games this season, he was batting .466 with four home runs, 23 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases.

The biggest question major league teams have about Ryan is whether they can sign him. No one knows whether Ryan is serious about attending Miami or just using it as a negotiating ploy.

His father, who is also his agent, said he preferred that solid organizations such as the teams in New York, Chicago or Toronto draft his son. Such teams, he believes, won't balk at the kind of money they are asking.

While Greg would not reveal the magic number, the way he scoffed at a rumored figure of $500,000 leads one to believe that he is seeking seven figures.

"It comes down to, here's the product," Greg said. "You drafted the product. Now what are you going to do with him?"

It has been said that Greg, who has admitted that he wants to get back into the major leagues as a coach, will be part of Ryan's package. But father and son deny that.

"I don't see him ever coaching me again after this year," Ryan said. "We've had a great experience. He's coached me in baseball and football, and in the off-season we go hunting together. We've gone from not spending any time together to 'God, get away from me already.' "

There has been no getting away from the hordes of fans, scouts, reporters and photographers that gather along the chain-link fences that surround the baseball diamond at Holy Cross to sneak a peek at him.

As the son of a well-known former major leaguer, Ryan, the teen-age talent whose style resembles that of Craig Biggio, another New Jersey product now with the Houston Astros, has not exactly developed his skills in secret.

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