The Ryan Express - Behind The Scenes
I had a chance to interview baseball legend and all-around good guy Nolan Ryan recently for this piece in the May issue Tailgater Monthly Magazine. We spoke over the phone for about an hour and talked about a ton of issues - college football, politics, baseball’s steroid-era, etc.
As you could imagine, he spent quite a bit of time talking about his cattle and beef companies, and this current crop of Texas Rangers - a team he’s served as President and General Manager of since 1998 - and their trips to the World Series in 2011 and 2012. As we were talking it dawned on me, as hard it is to believe, that the Ryan Express left the train station for the last time almost 20 years ago.
There was so much ground covered that I had to leave some good stuff out, a painful process akin to writing some of my family out of my will. Below are a handful of quotes from Ryan that didn’t make it into the article.
On being drafted by the New York Mets at age 18
"That was a cultural shock for me, coming from small town Texas and having only been out of the state twice in my life. Going to New York for the first time as player and having never been to New York City was, obviously, a big adjustment for me from the standpoint of I had never lived in a big city. I think I went there at a good time in my life, because I was young and it was exciting. We had a very young ball club and a lot of us knew each other coming up through the farm system."
On taking the job as president of the Rangers in 2008
"I thought I had patience until I took this job, but in the first year I realized I didn’t have the patience that I thought I had. What I had to do is step back and think about how I was when I was 21 or 22 years old. A lot of these players we had were really young players without a lot of experience, and so I had to realize that they’re playing in the big leagues, but are still in the developmental part of their career. I had to just look at it a little differently and that’s just one reason why I’m very excited about our ball club, because I still don’t think that a lot of these players that we have really reached their true potential yet. I think that some of them are capable of doing more than they’ve done already."
I’ll end with this next quote, which is really quite interesting. Ryan discuses how training and nutrition for baseball has changed since breaking into the majors in 1965.
"I always felt if there is anything I could do to improve myself and be better prepared then I was certainly in favor of it. The second half of my career three was a real push with sports medicine and conditioning, and a better understanding with what you had to do as far as specific conditioning for what type of sport you played and what you did within that sport. So, I certainly feel like I benefited from that and I was very open-minded to it, too. We would take on some training techniques that the Japanese used. They were ahead of the time. I had a pitching coach that went over and worked the Japanese in the off-season and always came back with some things, and I would try them and incorporate them into my workout routine. If I felt like they helped me I’d continue to do them."