Oct 14, 2014

The Batter Who Made The Last Out In Shea Stadium's History: Ryan Church (2008-2009)

Ryan Matthew Church was born on October 14, 1978, in Santa Barbara, California. After attending the University of Nevada, Church was drafted in 2000 by the Cleveland Indians in the 14th round. He hit over 17 HRs four times at the minor league level, including the 2004 season at AAA Edmonton.

Earlier in the year he had been traded to the Montreal Expos system. He was called up in late August debuting in a game against the Rockies at Colorado. He would remain with the club through the end of the season, hitting his first career HR at Florida on September 15th. Church became an original Washington National the next season as the team left Canada & settled in the Nations Capitol.

He started out the year as a candidate for the Rookie of the Year Award, until he got injured crashing into the wall in Pittsburgh while down chasing a fly ball. He was batting .325 but never regained his hitting form again that year, going on the DL two more times. He finished the year at .287 with 9 HRs 15 doubles & 42 RBIs in 102 games.

The next year he started out at AAA getting called back up in July. He went on to hit 10 HRs & bat .276 in 71 games played. During his Washington D.C. years he had his best year in 2007 as he stayed healthy all year. He played in a career high 144 games, hitting 15 HRs with an impressive 43 doubles (8th in the NL) 70 RBIs, a .272 batting average & a 346 on base %. As his contract headed toward its final season, he was mentioned in a lot of traded rumors for 2008.

That November he & catcher Brian Schneider were sent to the New York Mets for rookie Lastings Millidge. In Spring Training 2008 Church had a collision with Marlon Anderson & suffered a concussion. He recovered and was the hottest Mets hitter at the start of the 2008 season.

On Opening Day he was batting seventh & playing right field driving in his first Mets run with a base hit in their 7-2 win over the Florida Marlins. Two days later he had three hits with three RBIs & hit his first HR of the year. He closed out a big April driving in runs in seven of his last nine games. In the middle of May he was batting .325 with 8 HRs & 30 RBIs, until he suffered another concussion while sliding into Atlanta Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar.

The Mets were strongly criticized for allowing Church to fly and continue to play after he suffered his second concussion in less than three months. He returned to hit a HR against the Los Angeles Dodgers but was soon back on the DL suffering from the effects of the concussion. He missed time from June 5th through the 28th & then again from July 5th all the way through August 22nd.

He finished the year hitting .276 with 12 HRs 14 doubles & 49 RBIs playing in 90 games. Church never seemed to be the most popular choice of manager Jerry Manuel & began to see less playing time, even when healthy. Church made the final out in Shea Stadium history when he flew out to deep left field off Marlins pitcher Matt Lindstrom in the bottom of the 9th inning on September 28th, 2008.

In 2009 he had another good start batting .316 in April although he only hit one HR. In May he didn’t hit any HRs or drive in any runs the whole month. After playing in just 66 games, with 2 HRs 22 RBIs & a .280 average, Church was sent to the Atlanta Braves for Jeff Francoeur in early July. Church just never seemed to recover from all the concussions, constantly suffering from dizziness as well as light headedness. Obviously his problem with Manuel didn’t help nor was the way the Mets handled any of these situations. As a result his stay in New York was brief and unsuccessful.

In 2010 he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates but after hitting just .182 in 69 games he then got traded to the Arizona D-backs where he batted .265 with two HRs in 37 games. He was granted free agency but did not play in the majors again.

In his seven season career Church batted .264 with 500 hits 56 HRs 134 doubles 267 RBIs & a .336 on base %. Church was a good outfielder with a strong throwing arm. He made 29 assists over seven seasons, making only eight errors in 1162 chances while posting a .984 fielding percentage.

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