Ryan takes mound for Rangers in ALCS – sort of
The Texas Rangers opened the AL championship series with their
ace on the mound – Nolan Ryan.
And he came out firing.
Now the team’s president and part-owner, Ryan had the honor of
throwing out the first pitch for the Rangers’ first-ever ALCS game,
against the New York Yankees on Friday night. The all-time king of
strikeouts and no-hitters wasn’t about to give it a ceremonial soft
Wearing a red golf shirt and khakis, he gave that familiar leg
kick and fired up the ol’ Ryan Express. His heater was low and
would’ve been inside for a left-handed batter. As for the speed,
let’s just say it would’ve been nice to have had a radar-gun
Ryan came away smiling and laughing, perhaps feeling a surge
from being back on the mound in front of a sold-out crowd for a
game with these high stakes. The crowd had greeted him with the
loudest ovation of the night, and this was after every member of
the club had been introduced, including current ace Cliff Lee.
Ryan, however, is still the No. 1 pitcher in franchise history,
the guy’s whose arrival in 1989 brought relevancy to a faceless
franchise, whose arrival as team president in February 2008 began
the recovery that led to this point and whose business card
recently added the title of part-owner.
Just a few months after he won a financial wrestling match for
the club, Ryan got to watch them win a playoff series for the first
time. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say he had to watch because
after pitching in the big leagues for 27 seasons it was agonizing
being in the stands.
”It’s horrible,” he said, laughing. ”The two toughest things
I found in sports is to watch your children perform and be involved
with a team of this nature and not have any control over what’s
going on, that you’re strictly a spectator.”
The first-round finale was especially excruciating. Texas won
the first two games, then lost the next two. Although Lee dominated
Game 5 and the Rangers never trailed, Ryan said he couldn’t relax
until there was one out in the ninth. He was seen with tears in his
eyes once the celebrating began.
”That game felt like it lasted seven or eight hours to me,” he
Ryan won a World Series as a young player on the 1969 Mets, but
never got back there in a career that lasted until 1993. He was
part of teams that got bounced in 1979 (Angels) and 1980, ’81 and
He’s built the Rangers into AL West champs by emphasizing
pitching, of course. He wants starters going deep and throwing lots
of strikes. Lots of organizations have leaders who say that, but
none have a guy who can say it with the same credibility.
”I’d like to think that we built an attitude about pitching
that wasn’t here – that you can pitch in this ballpark and you can
be successful in this ballpark pitching here and you can keep the
ball in the yard,” he said.
Asked about the postseason prognosis, Ryan was in a tough
position. He knows they’ve already accomplished so much getting
this far, but he wasn’t about to make any bold predictions.
”The players truly believe that they are good players and that
they can win and there’s not a reason they can’t win,” he said.
”Every time you think that the backs were against the wall and it
looked like the wheels were going to come off of it, they did it
themselves. They found it within themselves to come back and turn
things around and I’m really proud of that, and the maturity that
I’ve seen develop in this ballclub.”
Ryan has dabbled in ranching and banking in his post-playing
career. So, how did those endeavors compare to baseball?
”Well,” he drawled, ”cattle don’t talk back to you and they
pretty much do what you asked of them.”