One is the tallest player in minor league baseball history.
The other is volleyball coach at Loyola Marymount University.
On Sunday, they teamed up to win the AVP’s New Orleans Open, getting a bit of revenge in the process.
The 7-foot-1 Ryan Doherty and teammate John Mayer, the tournament’s top seed, defeated the No. 2 team of Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson in the championship match played before a national television audience in Kenner.
The victory was a bit of redemption for Doherty and Mayer, who lost to Gibb and Patterson in the semifinals of last year’s New Orleans Open. It was the second AVP title for Doherty and Mayer, whose first win came in August in Seattle.
They won this match (and the $7,500-apiece prize) in three sets. They dropped the first set 21-9 before rallying to take the next two 21-17 and 15-8.
“One of my mantras this weekend was to be in the moment,” Mayer said. “If we were thinking about 21-9, then we were not in the moment. We just wanted to play our style of volleyball. I knew we were going to play better. (The first-set score of) 21-9 didn’t matter anymore. It was 0-0 after that, and that was what mattered. If we were present and played every play, we’d be fine.”
The third set was tied at 6 before Doherty and Mayer closed strong to win the first stop on this year’s tour.
“It’s a fantastic win to start the season,” Doherty said. “It puts us in a great spot the rest of the way. They’ve knocked me out of quite a few tournaments, and they’ve been a thorn in my side for years. Getting a win against them in the finals means a lot to me.”
Doherty, unlike many of the competitors on the tour, isn’t a lifelong volleyball player. He played baseball at Notre Dame, earning second-team All-America honors as a pitcher, and spent three seasons in the minor leagues in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization. He took up volleyball after his baseball career ended, and he proved successful enough to turn pro. He was honored as the AVP’s Best Offensive Player in 2015.
“Physically, there is almost no correlation between pitching and playing volleyball,” Doherty said. “I had to unlearn a lot of the mechanics that I had learned in baseball. I think the one thing I took away from baseball was being able to compete and learning how to fail and get better. You’re going to have a lot of failures and successes. I think I took that mindset to beach volleyball.”
He needed it after the first set, when his team struggled.
“Johnny was getting a little worried because of how bad I was playing,” Doherty said. “I told him I’d come out sharp and we’d figure it out. He’s good about staying calm and staying focused.”
That’s how Mayer has to be in his other job. He’s in his first season as head coach at LMU.
“It’s really hard,” he said. “I have to have a really good support system. LMU is very supportive, and they are behind me and my family is behind me. I have two full-time jobs, and I’m trying to be good at both of them. I’m not always great, but I’m trying to get better every day.”
Doherty and Mayer will go for their third won on the next stop of the tour, in Huntington Beach, California.
“Huntington Beach is going to be a stacked tournament,” Doherty said. “This gives us a lot of confidence.”