Baseball Legend Nolan Ryan Shares His Connection to the YMCA at Key Leaders Luncheon
As a young boy growing up in Alvin, Texas, baseball legend Nolan Ryan didn’t have many options available when deciding where to spend his free time. Local schools served as the hub of community activity, but Ryan knew the small town of about 20,000 people needed more. That’s why he and The Nolan Ryan Foundation helped fund a YMCA in Alvin approximately 10 years ago.
“The impact it’s had on the community has just been amazing,” Ryan said Tuesday afternoon at The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas’ annual Key Leaders Luncheon.
Ryan also partnered with the YMCA in Round Rock to provide swimming lessons at the ballpark of the Express, a minor-league team he owns that has a swimming pool in the stadium’s outfield. Based on the success of that program, the YMCA in Round Rock built its own pool.
Following an introduction by Chuck Morgan, the longtime public address announcer for the Texas Rangers and its executive vice president of in-park entertainment, Ryan discussed the Rangers’ playoff push and his Hall-of-Fame career as a hard-throwing pitcher.
When asked by Morgan if, when accepting the job as club president in February 2008, Ryan had any idea that the Rangers would reach back-to-back World Series and set attendance records, Ryan simply replied, “No.”
Ryan, who also serves the team’s co-owner and CEO, praised general manager Jon Daniels for his skillful trade in July 2007 of first baseman Mark Teixeira that yielded a group of five young prospects, including future All-Stars Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison. That now-famous deal, along with trading for Josh Hamilton and signing Adrian Beltre to a long-term contract, were instrumental in achieving the team’s recent success, Ryan said.
Acquiring Beltre in January 2011 has produced results that have far exceeded Ryan’s expectations, he said, as the third baseman has emerged as the “true leader” of infield in just his second season with the team and one of the best overall players in Major League Baseball.
“If I had a vote, I’d vote for him as MVP of the American League,” Ryan said, citing Beltre’s ability to impact the game far beyond the game-winning hit he had the previous night in a 5-4 walk-off win against the Oakland Athletics.
Having spent 27 years in the big leagues, Ryan named former closer Billy Wagner as the pitcher he believes to have thrown the fastest throughout his career, along with Hall-of-Famers Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Rod Carew and George Brett as the hitters he had the most difficult time facing.
Ryan also touched on his reputation for hitting batters on purpose to send a message, telling a story about plunking his good friend Norm Cash in the elbow so hard that he fell to the ground and was “flopping around” before leaving the game.
“There’s an art to pitching inside,” he said. “You want that hitter to have some doubt in his mind.”
Ryan’s appearance drew a record crowd of more than 600, surpassing the previous record of around 425 when T. Boone Pickens was the luncheon’s keynote speaker. For more information about the YMCA, please visit www.ymcadallas.org.