The day I met Nolan Ryan

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The day I met Nolan Ryan

October 17, 2013 -

Nolan Ryan is the only player in baseball history to have his jersey retired by three different teams on which he played.  He is baseball’s all-time leader in strikeouts.  He pitched seven no-hitters, three more than any other pitcher.  He is also the only player in baseball’s Hall of Fame wearing a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

In February 2008 Ryan became the Rangers’ 10th president in their history, adding the title of CEO in March 2011.  Under his leadership the team won its division and went to the World Series in 2010 and 2011, then lost in the wild card round last year and in a tie-breaker to enter the playoffs this year.  On October 17 he announced his retirement from the team, effective at the end of the month.

Already there is speculation regarding his timing.  Ryan considered leaving last year after general manager Jon Daniels was promoted to president of baseball operations, as he was unclear regarding his role.  I’m sure some will blame Daniels for Ryan’s decision, though the real story regarding their relationship and its role in Ryan’s retirement may never be known.

Then there’s the hiring of Ryan’s son, Reid, as president of the Houston Astros last May.  Now many will wonder if he intends to join his son in some capacity with the Astros.

I’ll not forget the meal I shared with him.  Two seasons ago, a dear friend and part-owner of the Rangers invited me to a game with him.  Before it started we went into the owners’ dining room, where Nolan and his wife Ruth were eating.  She soon left, leaving the three of us together.  He could not have been more humble and humorous.  As we ate hot dogs together, he told us stories about his life as a boy and his experiences across four decades in the major leagues.

Nolan Ryan’s baseball achievements will be remembered as long as the game is played.  His leadership of the Texas Rangers changed the franchise in ways that I hope continue for many years.  But I’m most impressed by Nolan Ryan the man—approachable, gracious, a person of character whose integrity matters more to him than any record.

Dwight Moody remarked, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of me.”  Solomon testified, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely” (Proverbs 10:9).  How secure will you be today?

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