Ryan Vogelsong, 34
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher
Ryan Vogelsong may be on track to being crowned MVP of the Giants’ 2011 season, but success hasn’t come swiftly for the North Carolina native. After launching his Major League career with the Giants in 2000, Vogelsong slipped into baseball obscurity for a decade as he bounced around teams, including a stint with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Hanshin Tigers in Japan. But everything changed for the 6-foot-4-inch right-hander this past April when the Giants snagged his contract to replace an injured Barry Zito. Reunited with SF’s world champions, he spent the first half of the season racking up one of the National League’s best earned run averages (2.47 at press time) and rounding out this year’s All-Star team. Being on the lineup with superstars such as Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, and Matt Cain means some pretty stiff pitching competition, but Vogelsong isn’t worried about holding his own against his heavyweight teammates. “We’re like a big family,” he says. “We’re always trying to make each other better, from teaching mechanical things to sharing words of wisdom.” Vogelsong’s emergent success is a testament to his unrelenting will, proving that hard work and persistence do pay off in the long run. So what does the future hold for the Russian Hill resident? “I’m a minority owner in the Marucci baseball bat company, so I’m sure I’ll head in that direction,” he says. “But that’s still years down the road.” Fans hope so too.