"The Ryan Express is coming back to town," Hicks said at the biggest press conference the Rangers have had since they introduced Alex Rodriguez over seven years ago.
This time the spotlight is on Nolan Ryan, who was introduced as the new club president. Ryan, who pitched for the Rangers from 1989-93 and went into the Hall of Fame in 1999 wearing a Rangers cap, replaces Jeff Cogen and will oversee all aspects of the Rangers' organization, including baseball operations. Hicks and Ryan have yet to settle on a length of contract.
"I'm very excited about this," Ryan said. "I think it will be a great challenge. It's something entirely new for me, but I'm looking forward to it. The nucleus is here for us to have a good ballclub and be competitive."
Ryan is the fifth club president since Hicks took over as owner in 1998, but the first since Tom Schieffer to have a direct say in baseball operations. The last three -- Jim Lites, Michael Cramer and Cogen -- concentrated strictly on the business side of the organization, while the general manager reported directly to Hicks.
Hicks and Ryan said general manager Jon Daniels will still make the final recommendation on all baseball decisions. But Hicks described the arrangement as a "partnership" among the three of them.
"Nolan is president of the team," Hicks said. "He will make his opinions known. But he believes, as I do, to let people have the final responsibility for their jobs. He'll let J.D. make the final recommendation, but it won't be done in a vacuum. But I can't imagine any decision that comes to me they won't already have agreed upon it."
Hicks said Ryan's hiring was an endorsement of Daniels' work as general manager. Hicks said he is working on a contract extension for Daniels, who is signed through 2009. The final details have not yet been worked out.
"J.D. has been doing a great job," Hicks said. "I like the idea of having a 30-year-old general manager who has one of the smartest minds in the game working with a 61-year-old Hall of Famer who has seen it all and done it all. I think the energy of these two is what it takes to make decisions needed to be a world champion in the future."
Daniels said he is looking forward to working with Ryan, and made it clear he's not concerned about any power struggles or loss of control over baseball operations.
"I want to dispel any myths right off the bat, nothing but good can come out of this," Daniels said. "I anticipate Nolan being in on key meetings, and Nolan will be involved in key decisions. That will be a big impact. I have great confidence that he believes in building from within, and he recognizes we have a lot of good people in player development and scouting and we're on the right path.
"Everybody's goal is to win a World Series. With what Nolan has accomplished in the game and in life, he wouldn't come here if he didn't think it was possible."
Ryan said he's unsure how much he'll be involved in baseball operations. He said he wants to sit down with Daniels, farm director Scott Servais, manager Ron Washington and other baseball people to get his "arms around" the organization. But he agreed with Hicks that Daniels should have final recommendation on all baseball decisions.
"Jon's the general manager in the sense that if you look at the Major League ballclub, he's the one who has to put it together," Ryan said. "The final say should come down to him because he's the one who is accountable. I look at it as I'm a resource for him, and when there are major decisions to make, we'll use all the resources that we have."
Ryan once had the goal of becoming a general manager. He said that when he first signed with the Houston Astros as a free agent in 1979, his ambition was to eventually become a GM. But he ended up pitching for another 14 years, and by the time he eventually retired, the job of general manager had changed drastically.
"I think it's one of the most challenging jobs there is because of all the players and the salaries and the agents," Ryan said.
Ryan retired after the 1993 season. He spent 10 years with the Rangers as a special assistant under a personal services contract, but never had a substantial role with the organization. He spent the past four seasons as a special assistant to the Astros while owning their Triple-A team in Round Rock and Double-A team in Corpus Christi.
But Ryan said he never lost his desire to be part of shaping and running a Major League team.
"I look at this as a unique opportunity to get more involved in developing the organization and bringing a championship here," Ryan said. "This is a window of opportunity that wouldn't have been here much longer. If they had hired somebody else, then it might not have come open for another six or seven years, and who knows where I would be at that point in my life."
Ryan and his family will still maintain ownership of the two Minor League teams, and they will still be affiliated with the Astros. His sons, Reid and Reese, run the two clubs, and Major League Baseball has no concerns about a conflict of interest.
"I congratulate the Texas Rangers on their decision to hire Nolan Ryan as the new team president," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "The drive and determination that helped make Nolan a Hall of Famer has been just as evident in his business ventures since his retirement. He cares very deeply about Major League Baseball, and this is a wonderful leadership opportunity for one of the icons of our game. He has been a great credit to our sport for a generation."
Ryan is the first Hall of Famer to be president of a Major League club since Christy Mathewson was with the Boston Braves in 1923 and 1925. Ryan was introduced to Rangers employees at a meeting in the auditorium at the Legend of the Game Museum on Wednesday. He was given a standing ovation.
"A great day for baseball and an even better day for the Texas Rangers," said Jim Sundberg, Rangers vice president and former All-Star catcher who caught Ryan back in 1989.
"It brings pride to the organization," Hicks said. "I think Nolan is the greatest hero we've ever had, and he's also a very successful businessman. We have some great people in this organization, but what we need is a leader. Nolan is our leader."