You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Who is Nolan Ryan?
Lynn Nolan Ryan
Wilson County NewsJune 27, 2012 3,450 views 5 comments
“Who is Nolan Ryan?” she asked me from across the room, more out of politeness than genuine intrigue.
“Who is Nolan Ryan? Are you serious?” I asked in response, and with a sense of both urgency and disbelief as I looked across the room toward my daughter, who was munching on a bowl of cold cereal.
“What? I’m sure I’m supposed to know who he is, but I don’t,” she said, with one of her glitter-lined bright-eyed smiles, forcing a crooked grin of my own.
While I may have been smiling on the outside, inside I couldn’t help but feel as though I had somehow failed my daughter. As an 18-year-old high school graduate, she had to know who Nolan Ryan was. If not, what sort of a father does that make me? Surely I must have talked about him over the years. I write about sports for a living. She is messing with me. She has to be.
“Really? Nolan Ryan -- the Hall of Fame pitcher?” I questioned again, confident she really knew who he was.
But she didn’t.
A feeling of humble remorse came over me. After all, Nolan Ryan was one of my childhood heroes, and our kids should know who our heroes are.
Any kid of my generation who ever picked up a tattered glove, swung an old wooden bat, or laced up a pair of dirt-stained hand-me-down cleats knows who Nolan Ryan is. He is an icon -- a living legend.
Who is Nolan Ryan?
That question haunted me the next morning as I loaded the family chariot and prepared for my trip to Arlington. There would be plenty of time to ponder the issue, but I needed to get on the road. I carefully ran over a checklist in my head, taking care not to pull out of the driveway before remembering to take everything.
Clothes, meds, laptop, camera, chargers, baseball.
“The baseball!” I blurted aloud. “I need to stop for a baseball.”
With a full tank of gas and a six-hour drive staring me in the face, I made a pit stop in San Antonio. I slipped into Academy Sports & Outdoors, and veered toward the white “Team Sports” sign that hung on the left side of the store. Past some clothes, a mess of exercise equipment that would do me good, and a collection of golf gear I had no interest in, I made a hard left turn down a wide aisle flanked by gloves and batting helmets.
Who is Nolan Ryan?
I found a section there that was filled with baseballs. Several brands and styles provided a plethora of choices, but only one option would be “good enough” for what I had in mind. I eventually found it on a high shelf, off to one side. It probably wasn’t a top seller for the store, but it was perfect for me.
“Official Major League Baseball,” the label read.
Back into the car, and onto the highway, I continued my trek toward Arlington, and the question continued to nag at me.
Who is Nolan Ryan?
I was a bad father. I must be.
I had signed up for, and been selected, to participate in a sports writers workshop at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Several speakers were scheduled to address the workshop, but one name stood out above all others. We knew things could always change, but we were expecting a visit from Mr. Lynn Nolan Ryan -- “The Ryan Express” -- himself.
Who is Nolan Ryan?
Although my daughter didn’t know the answer, everyone in that room inside the confines of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington sure did. When the time finally came, and he walked into the room, I was instantly 10 years old again.
“A man that needs no introduction” was heard coming from somewhere toward the front of the room, but all eyes and attentions were focused at the back corner. His presence brought everyone to their feet, and the room filled with wild applause as Nolan Ryan stepped through the doorway. The ovation brought a smile to his face, and an even bigger one to mine.
It’s hard to describe the moment, and the feelings that seemingly overwhelmed everyone. He was more than just a man. He was a hero. He was my hero.
It took a moment to sink in, and to realize that one of the greatest pitchers of all time was standing right in front of me. And while the applause must have only lasted a few seconds, it felt as though it went on for an hour. Time seemed to stand still for a moment, and despite the applause that must have been heard throughout the structure, it felt almost silent in the room.
Our group of fewer than 30 sports writers spent about a half hour talking to the legendary right-hander. We asked straight questions and got straight answers in return. It was time for him to leave before we knew it, and it hit me like a ton of bricks -- the baseball!
I reached into my worn and tattered laptop bag, quickly retrieving the gleaming white leather-bound baseball I had bought the day before. From another pocket I grabbed a new Sharpie, and I made a beeline for the door. I got there before he did, and stood ready.
“Mr. Ryan,” I asked, stretching my hands toward him, and feeling instantly as though I was a Little Leaguer again. “Would you please sign my baseball?”
Without hesitation, he took the baseball and permanent marker from my grasp. I watched with excitement as he carefully signed my ball. He must have done it a million times over his lifetime, but for me it was a first. I remember watching his right hand wave over my ball and thinking, “This man and that hand threw more than 5,700 strikeouts and seven no-hitters, and he is signing a ball for me!”
The next hour or two of the workshop was a bit of a blur. I don’t really remember what we talked about. All I remember is sitting there -- staring at my baseball.
During the day, we also managed to receive a tour of the ballpark. We stood in the press box, sat in the city of Arlington’s suite, walked through the Rangers’ batting cages, and even sat in their dugout, pretending we were part of the team. We stood just a few feet from Rangers Manager Ron Washington during his pre-game workout, and were treated to seats for that evening’s game. It was a good day, but was highlighted by a great moment.
Many will say he is just a man, that he puts his pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. While that may be true, he is much more than that to millions of fans who grew up watching him play.
Who is Nolan Ryan?
He is one of the greatest to have ever played the game, and he’s my hero.
Your Opinions and Comments
The Marcelina Muse
Dry Tank, TX
June 28, 2012 9:15am
June 28, 2012 4:00am
June 27, 2012 11:10pm
4 th Generation Texan
June 27, 2012 10:42pm
La Vernia, TX
June 27, 2012 6:30pm
Share your comment or opinion on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Basketball Scores (November 25, 2015)
Falls City wins area championship (November 25, 2015)
Hornets receive all-district honors (November 25, 2015)
Jaguars host 40th annual tournament (November 25, 2015)
Julie Kosub signs with UIW (November 25, 2015)
Justus Parker named all-conference (November 25, 2015)
La Vernia Bears eliminated in area football playoff (November 25, 2015)
Bears destroy Hawks, 70-7 (November 18, 2015)
Beaverettes outlast Lady Mustangs in season opener (November 18, 2015)
Beavers advance with win over Burton (November 18, 2015)
Brahmas drop playoff game (November 18, 2015)
Hornets’ playoff run ends to Stevens (November 18, 2015)
Jaguars start with two wins in pre-district games (November 18, 2015)
Lady Bears eliminated in regional quarterfinals (November 18, 2015)
Pirates fall in bi-district playoff (November 18, 2015)
Pirettes eliminated in Region IV final (November 18, 2015)
Varsity Basketball Scores (November 18, 2015)
East Central falls to O’Connor in bi-district playoff (November 11, 2015)
East Central Hornets dominate South San Bobcats (November 11, 2015)
Katie Foster leads Pirates of Southwestern University (November 11, 2015)
La Vernia runs strong at state (November 11, 2015)
La Vernia trounces Robstown to close out district (November 11, 2015)
Lady Bears knock off state-ranked team in area playoff (November 11, 2015)
Lady Brahmas win bi-district, eliminated in area play (November 11, 2015)
Pirettes win pair of playoffs, advance to regionals (November 11, 2015)
Poth tops Karnes City to close out regular season (November 11, 2015)
River City Wrestling hosts fan night at Retama Park (November 11, 2015)
Stockdale Brahmas blank Nixon-Smiley in district finale (November 11, 2015)
Akin leads Brahmas, qualifies for state (November 4, 2015)
Bears pound Eagles for 50-point win (November 4, 2015)
Beavers make perfect run through regular season (November 4, 2015)
Brahmas down Badgers to move ahead in district (November 4, 2015)
FHS Jaguars miss volleyball playoffs (November 4, 2015)
Floresville Middle School tops San Marcos tennis teams (November 4, 2015)
Hornets lose second-half shootout in Corpus Christi (November 4, 2015)
Jaguar basketball gets going (November 4, 2015)
La Vernia runners advance to state (November 4, 2015)
Matthew Montgomery competes in international weightlifting (November 4, 2015)
Mustangs stampede Natalia (November 4, 2015)
Pirettes top Lady Brahmas in playoff (November 4, 2015)
Poth gets shut out in Blanco (November 4, 2015)
Tigers end season with loss to Alamo Heights Mules (November 4, 2015)
Varsity volleyball scores (November 4, 2015)