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October 28, 2010

Nolan Ryan


Q. After watching the play of Josh Hamilton this year, is there anybody you played with or against in your career that you might compare him with as far as the kind of year that he had?
NOLAN RYAN: Not played with. Obviously I put him in the category athletic-wise and probably from, and I don't know what the exact date was, but probably something like May 15th until he got hurt in Minnesota, that period of time he put together was probably as impressive a stretch as I ever saw from a hitter. And not only just from hitting but from the way he played outfield, played the entire game, and you really truly by watching him day in and day out realize how special he is and how rare he is. You just don't see many players like that.
I tell people the first time I saw Josh and realized how talented he was, it reminded me of the first time I saw Cesar CedeƱo and how talented he was. But Josh has more power than Cesar. I'm talking about just when they walked on the field and you saw what a gift they were given.

Q. Aubrey Huff grew up in the Dallas area and said that he used to go on Dollar Hot Dog Night and watch you pitch. Two questions: First of all, have you talked to Aubrey at all since you got here? And second of all, do you find more and more that guys who are actually in the Major Leagues have come up to you and said, I loved watching you pitch as a kid?
NOLAN RYAN: Well, you know, some of them do, but most of those guys have retired now (laughter). You know, it's interesting, some of these young kids come up, they'll ask me if I've faced so and so, and they were 20 years ahead of me, and I'm thinking, how old do they think I am?
No, I haven't talked to Aubrey, but I've followed his career ever since Houston got him in that trade from Tampa Bay, and I find it interesting now that he's playing first base on a World Series team.

Q. You saw him as an outfielder?
NOLAN RYAN: He was playing third for Houston in those days, yeah.

Q. Just the fact that you guys are in the World Series, what does this do for the future of the franchise as far as name recognition, financially, season ticket sales?
NOLAN RYAN: Well, you know, it was strange last night, I was watching Jay Leno and he's talking about the World Series and talking about the Texas Rangers, and I'm thinking, gosh, that sounds strange. I think that it puts us on the map with a lot of people within the country and within baseball that we've made it to this level. I think we were more of a North Texas type franchise in the past because of the lack of the success that we've had. I think it definitely has a very positive impact on your organization and just on recognition.
What I've seen is how much Texas memorabilia I see around the country now. You walk through the airport in New York and you see people wearing it here in San Francisco and places like that. Our fans didn't even wear it to the ballpark when I came in 2008. I see it all over the Metroplex now, so it's definitely had an impact.

Q. Can I ask you also a bit about Josh, his struggle has been so publicized and we all know it. As a player who obviously never went through anything quite like that, can you just talk about what he's been able to overcome and the fortitude that has allowed him to do this?
NOLAN RYAN: Well, I don't think that I can truly appreciate for what he's overcome and the way he's handled it. To me it's a phenomenal story. He admits he's an addict, and the issues that those people deal with on a daily basis with their lives and the discipline they have to have is phenomenal, that not only does he have a discipline in his personal life to put that behind him and stay away from it but to have the discipline to do on the baseball field what he had to do.
The first month of the season he struggled batting-wise, was chasing a lot of bad pitches, and he made that change that allowed him to have the year that he's had this year. So it's been fun in the three years I've been here to watch him grow as a player. Probably isn't given enough credit but he doesn't have that many big league at-bats. He didn't have that many professional at-bats when he played that first year with Cincinnati. So to come up on this level and face Big League pitching from both sides, it's phenomenal what he's been able to accomplish.
So I think that we might not give him enough credit of what he has accomplished in a short period of time. And now teams don't want to pitch to him at all. We saw that with the Yankees intentionally walking him three times after he got one hit. I don't think the intent was to give him that fastball up and in, and he fought it off to left field driving in that run.
The scouts are telling everybody, don't let Josh Hamilton beat you and don't pitch to Josh Hamilton.

Q. I think given the starting pitchers last night, it was startling to the whole country that there were 18 runs scored. I wonder if you could speak to the idea of how fragile dominant pitching really is and how exact it has to be to be what we've seen from Cliff Lee and Lincecum in the past.
NOLAN RYAN: Well, it really is, and I think we saw last night on this stage that it's even harder. People ask me what I was expecting last night. I told them a 3-2 game that was decided by the bullpens. I wasn't even close, you know?
I think that when you get on this stage, it's very special, and there's not a lot of room for error as we saw last night. And I think that everybody takes their game to a different level, and so it's -- if you'd asked me out of both starting pitchers, I thought that -- and I also anticipated in my mind that it would have been sunny and there would have been shadows, and so the challenges for the hitters would have been tougher than it was last night. With the fact that it was overcast and that wasn't an issue.
But I think that the next time you see both of these guys, they're going to be more on their game.

Q. Could you talk about the difference as the first time in your role in the World Series this time as opposed to 41 years ago when you were a playing, the sensation of pride, excitement, how much of it is the same, how much of it is different?
NOLAN RYAN: From my perspective sitting here today versus my perspective as a 22 year old in New York, it's totally different. From the appreciation standpoint, knowing, I think, from a fan standpoint, I'm not involved in the playing of the game and so it's very hard to be a spectator and wanting all these things to happen and you have no control over them. I'm no different than the guy sitting in the stands once the game starts, and that's where I'm sitting is in the stands.
And I relate it to watch my kids play when they were growing up and playing youth sports. As a parent being a spectator is the toughest thing I ever did, and I found experiencing that same feeling this year, worrying about us, whether we were going to win the West and then whether we were going to get by Tampa Bay, and so that's what I related it to.
And so from the World Series side of it, I'm more relaxed, I think, overall because I'm not a performer anymore. But I also get very anxious during the game, which I didn't experience that as a player.

Q. Along that same line, what do you remember most about '69, the day you experienced it as a player? And how frustrating was it for all the years to come and all the high points that you were never able to get back?
NOLAN RYAN: Well, it was a very magical year for us, and it came together the last six weeks in the season when the Cubs started in their tailspin and we started getting hot. So there was a buildup there, and we started believing as a team that we could catch them and we could win our division. Did we think we were going to win a world championship? I don't think anybody on the team thought that. But you know, the Mets were where the Rangers are this year. They'd never been there before, never experienced it.
So this has been a magical year for us with a lot of ups and downs and frustrations pertaining to a lot of different issues.
So there's some similarities there. But what was the rest of your question?

Q. The frustration of all the things that followed that you were never able to get back.
NOLAN RYAN: Well, I think as a player I think we all assumed that because of the youth on that club that we'd have that opportunity again, and my goal was to be a starter on a World Series championship team, and that never happened. I got close several times, but it never happened. And so the longer my career went on, the more I realized how unique it is to get into the World Series and how hard it is to get there, and so my appreciation changed for being in that position.
So I'm much more appreciative today than I was as a 22 year old. But it was frustrating as a player to get close. You know, you might get within an out or two away and something comes unraveled on you.
That's why in Tampa, I never felt like, and in New York, too, that we had won it until we got the last out because I've been on teams that was one out away from accomplishing something and weren't able to get it done.

Q. I was wondering, when it comes to player personnel decisions with your club, how much influence do you have, and what do you think of the trend over the last 10, 15 years of so many general managers not really having played baseball at a high level, what you think of that, and its influence on the game?
NOLAN RYAN: Well, I think that that group of general managers brings a different dimension to the game than the guy that baseball has been his life and his career, and I'm not saying that dimension that they bring is bad because I think they bring a different perspective. And so I think that's one reason Jon Daniels and I get along well is that he has a perspective and I do, and we usually pretty much reach the same conclusion when we're talking about making changes. He voices his opinion and I voice mine, and so I think they complement each other.
I really think that experience is a great teacher, and I think that with me on our pitchers, I think I have an appreciation and I see things with our pitchers that a lot of people don't because they didn't stand on that mound and experience all the different things that I experienced in my career.

Q. I'm not sure a lot of people thought that the World Series would be played in Arlington before the Super Bowl is played there. You know about the Friday Night Lights, you know what football means in Texas. Talk about the Rangers playing in Texas having an impact on that and what do you sense of that?
NOLAN RYAN: Well, I think that the sports fans in the Metroplex are really excited in the fact that we're in the World Series and they're very supportive of it. I think they're somewhat disappointed with the season so far with the Cowboys because I think they had great expectations, and I looked at them as a potential Super Bowl team this year.
I'm disappointed with the start that they've had, too. But I think our fans are appreciative of what we've accomplished, and I think they're excited that they have a team that's in the World Series and that they can support and pull for.

Q. You mentioned a moment ago this was a magical year for you guys. In terms of getting the organization to a point where you can sustain championship-caliber teams year in and year out, what areas are you satisfied with and what work do you still need to do to get to that level?
NOLAN RYAN: Well, you know, what's interesting is there were times this year that we thought that we had several starters kind of in the wings in case somebody went down. And then all of a sudden you'll have an injury and somebody will have a period where they're not throwing well, and all of a sudden you're scratching your head going, where are we going to find a starter.
I think we're quite aware that you never develop a comfort zone that you have it all positioned and it's going to come together the way that you anticipate it. So you have to be very flexible and you have to always anticipate the worst happening.
So you know, we hustled all year for catching, we hustled all year for a utility man. We're constantly looking for pitching. So we're not going to take the attitude this off-season because we got to the World Series that we don't have to be as diligent about what we're going to do this off-season. We have to, I think, even be more aggressive and try to fill any hole that we potentially may have that we think that we're vulnerable at.

Q. I'm curious what you thought of the decision to not play Vlad today, and in a wider sense, the whole dynamic of the American League team having to take out or change its lineup in the World Series and the National League adding a DH.
NOLAN RYAN: Well, you know, I don't like the fact that we have to deal with pitchers hitting when you go to National League parks and them having to have a DH when they come in the American League park. I'd like to see it standardized. I do it out of the fact that you manage the game differently when you have a starting pitcher that hits. It's not fair for a National League team to come into an American League park. And we have a person that we've gone out and got for strictly that position as a DH, and they don't have that because they play a different game.
I'm not in agreement with that. It's a big challenge with the Players Association because you would be taking a high-paid player off a team if you did away with the DH. So if you ask me what my preference would be, it would be to eliminate the DH. That's just me personally, but I've always felt that way.

Q. C.J. Wilson has had a really great year this year, breakout season, but he also walked a lot of guys, and you certainly experienced that in your career. What is it that you like about C.J.'s approach? And how does that work for him to succeed despite walking some guys?
NOLAN RYAN: You know, obviously we would like to see C.J. more efficient with his pitches. And when you have a Cliff Lee on your team, you know, you have to make sure that you don't compare the rest of your pitching staff to Cliff Lee because Cliff Lee is in a league by himself as far as being efficient with his pitches. But what it does, it magnifies other people that may not be as efficient with their pitches.
I would like to see C.J. be more efficient with his pitches. He could even pitch later into the game than he does. He could have less 3-2 counts. I was one of those guys that when you get a lot of balls fouled off you, because of that you're going to throw more pitches and you're also going to throw more balls because you're trying to change that up, so the more pitches you throw, the more balls you're going to throw, that's just a given.
It is the style of pitcher he is, too, and so he has such good stuff that they don't center his pitches, they foul them off more. And so that's part of who C.J. Wilson is, is because he has that kind of stuff.
Some of that is understandable, some of it is that this first year he's been in the rotation all year and he's still developing as a starter, and I expect him to get more efficient with his pitches and not accumulate as many pitches early in the game in the first few innings as he does right now.
So I think that this time next year he will have improved in that area.

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