Nolan, how are you doing?
Nolan: Good morning, Chuck. Doing good.
Chuck: How does the pitching staff look for 2009? Are you looking to trade or pursue any big-name pitchers during the year to make the pitching staff any stronger? By the way this is the best I've seen the staff in some years! Hopefully they stay healthy in that Texas heat! Question submitted by: John Fanale
Nolan: As far as trades are concerned this early in the season, it's hard to predict what we might do and what our needs might be. We're always looking to improve the club if we can. The other thing is, as far as the pitching staff itself, right now we're kind of in a transition period with the pitching staff. We have a lot of young players that are close to being here to contribute to the big league club, but they're not quite ready and we want to give them a little more time in the Minor Leagues. We have a more veteran staff right now than we've had in a while. I think you'll look up here before too long and see a much younger staff.
Chuck: Who is the greatest catcher you pitched to? Question submitted by: Brandon Ballinger
Nolan: There were different categories of catchers for me. The most talented catcher I ever threw to was Pudge [Rodriguez]. He was extremely quick behind the plate, he had quick feet and quick hands, and an unbelievably good arm and very accurate with his throws. I think because I threw to him when he was 19 years old that he wasn't the catcher then that he became or is now. I think one of the best receivers I threw to was Jerry Grote. The guy that called the best game and knew the opposing hitters as well as anybody I ever threw to was Jeff Torborg.
Chuck: Who knew Nolan Ryan the best?
Nolan: Jeff [Torborg] and I spent a lot of time together and talked about hitters more than other catchers I had. I would have to say Jeff because I really feel like we knew the hitters and we spent more time together prior to a start than any of the other pitchers.
Chuck: Do you have any concerns about the pitching staff's ability to keep games close and close them out? Are there currently any plans to bolster the pitching staff already? Question submitted by: Dawson Smith
Nolan: As far as keeping the games close, the thing we really emphasized in Spring Training was throwing strikes, getting ahead of the hitter, and staying ahead of the hitter. We felt like last year, we walked entirely too many people and you can't put that many extra base runners on base and keep the score down. So we felt like it was just mandatory that we do that. I think, except for that one game in Detroit, we're doing a better job of that.
With our pitching staff, we aren't blessed with guys with strikeout ability that can overcome people being walked. I think that's why it's even more important for us.
Chuck: When you were pitching in Anaheim and Houston, you would have liked to have this kind of offense, wouldn't you?
Nolan: Oh, I would have loved it. It's a pitchers dream to pitch for a team like this. I think we've shown so far this year that we're never out of games. This team has the ability to bounce back even when they're four or five runs down. They never think they're out of a ballgame.
Chuck: Nolan, was Anaheim a pitchers park?
Nolan: Yeah, it was. The air would get heavy in California at night and it was a spacious ballpark to start with, and I was fortunate enough to pitch in Anaheim and the Astrodome, which were two pitchers' parks.
Chuck: What is the BEST advice you were ever given-- in baseball or in life?
Question submitted by: Laura J. Smith
Nolan: I think Eddie Stanky had the biggest influence on me about conditioning and never feeling like the other team was better-conditioned than you because that's something you have direct control over and that you can control yourself. There's not a reason to not be physically prepared for what you're doing. I think that helped instill that attitude in me that I was always going to do everything within my power to be the best I could.
Chuck: You've always had a great work ethic. Does that come from mom and dad?
Nolan: Yeah, I really do and I think that was instilled in me by my parents. I think Eddie Stanky reinforcing that thought process in me is how important being in shape and doing everything you can to be prepared.
Chuck: Eddie Stanky managed one game for the Rangers. Where did you run into Eddie Stanky?
Nolan: He was in the Mets organization when I was a youngster in the Minor Leagues.
What was your most memorable baseball moment? Question submitted by: Nolan M. Smith (14)
Nolan: It's hard to pick one because of all the unique things happening in my career and the length of my career. Obviously one of them would be the seventh no-hitter because that's not something you anticipate and it came late in my career. I thought that was part of my career that was behind me.
Chuck: G'day there, Mr. Ryan. I am an Australian living here in the great state of Texas and am a huge baseball and Rangers fan. Last year I honestly thought we had a shot at the playoffs through the wildcard but we fell in a heap in the second part of the season. What measures can be put in place to stop that this year because again we can make the playoffs, and if we get a hot start we can do it by winning out division and not relying on the wildcard. Question submitted by: Michael Cummins
Nolan: I think his description of what happened to us in August last year is accurate. I think we'll be able to handle our position players better this year and tune them some during the hot days of August so we don't wear down like we appeared to last year. Obviously the pitching staff is going to have to perform better than they did last year. I really feel like they're going to be able to do that.
Chuck: Have you been to Australia?
Nolan: No. The only thing keeping me from going there is the airplane trip.
Chuck: I was at the game the night the kissing lady ran on the field and gave you a big smooch. What was going through your mind when this happened and what did your wife say about it? Question submitted by: Nadine Welli
Nolan: With security like it is now, I think it would be pretty hard for Morganna to make her attacks. Somehow I got blamed for that by my family like I was involved in that. I just tried to cooperate when she came out.
Chuck: Did Ruth feel like there was too much cooperation?
Nolan: Probably. She probably did and so did a few other people. Those moments don't come along very often and I didn't want to embarrass the lady.
Chuck: Nolan, you've done so many great things. Did you find out there was a celebrity that was a fan of yours and thought that was pretty neat? I know you've been around Presidents and things like that, but maybe a movie star or something when you were in Anaheim?
Nolan: You know, John Grisham, the author, came to Arlington when I was still playing with the Rangers and meet me and I felt honored that he'd been a big baseball fan and he took the time to come over and do an interview with me. It was special to me that he felt that way about me and my baseball career. I had always been a fan of his because I had read a lot of his novels.
Chuck: Do you have any special memories when you batted while with the Mets and Astros and do you think the DH has been a good idea and should be used in both the AL and NL? Question submitted by: Duane Keilstrup
Nolan: No, I don't like the DH and the reason is I think the American League is at a disadvantage when they get into the World Series and in Interleague Play. I would like it to be standard and it creates more of an interest in the National League when the manager has to decide if he's going to pinch-hit for his pitcher and those types of decisions they have to make. I think you have to manage a little more in the National League.
Chuck: Your best memories with the Mets, the World Series in 1969?
Nolan: Yes, it would be and any time you're on a team whose ultimate goal is to win the World Series and you accomplish that, you develop a bond with those players because you set out in Spring Training to accomplish something, you go through a long season and a lot of post-season games to accomplish that and it's very unique and special. You always have a fondness for those guys and that season that you maybe don't have for other seasons.
Chuck: Same thing with the Astros in 1980?
Nolan: I think the fact we got in the playoffs and within one game of the World Series in 1980, and 1986 we ran into the Mets club that was so good. But the unique thing about the Astros was 15 of us that stayed there together the whole 9 years I was there and I think that was very unusual and that group of players is still very close.
Chuck: That's almost going to be unusual from here on in baseball, isn't it?
Nolan: Well, it is with the way the game is now and as much movement as you see.
Chuck: Hi Nolan, Just wanted to tell you my brother and I are huge fans of yours. My brother named his second son Nolan and I have a son that will be born around August 6th and we will name him Jack Ryan Freeman. Thanks for being a great role model. What one piece of advice would you give to a young boy who hoped to grow up to be a successful pitcher? Question submitted by: Lonnie Freeman
Nolan: I appreciate it and I'm honored any time someone names their children after you and it's very special.
What I recommend for parents that have young children is for them to introduce them to sports and look at it from the perspective that the chances they will play professionally are extremely slim. They should teach them and have the child play for the enjoyment of it. To learn the game properly and understand sportsmanship and what goes into it, then to work hard at what they do. If they work hard and condition themselves the best they can, they will get the most out of it.
Chuck: Nolan, I know you played basketball in high school, did you ever play football?
Nolan: I played football through the ninth grade and then I gave up football to concentrate on basketball because my goal was to go to college on a basketball scholarship. Thank goodness my baseball ability overshadowed my basketball.
Chuck: Where you a quarterback or tight end?
Nolan: In those days, in the seventh through ninth grade, they tried me at quarterback but I didn't really want to play there. I either wanted to be a defensive back and I wasn't fast enough to be a running back, so they put me at end and I played some defensive back.
Chuck: With one of the best farm systems in MLB and lots of young talent on the big league roster, what will be the key to the development of these young prospects which hold the key to the success of the Texas Rangers for years to come?
Question submitted by: Nelson Aparicio
Nolan: I think it's a given throughout baseball that we're extremely talented young club. Our job as an organization is to teach them to play the game properly, give them as many at bats and innings in the minor leagues so when they get here, they're further advanced and it's not a learning process they're going through on a Major League level. A lot of times, the tendency is to rush those kids and then they have to learn on this level. For them to learn to play the game right and understand what they have to do to be successful. The tendency is to rush them and we're trying not to do that but some of those kids are going to move really fast and be here at an early age just because of the talent they have.
Chuck: And you have first-hand knowledge of that. You've told me before that you felt rushed a little bit.
Nolan: I was. I wasn't ready to pitch in the big leagues. I got there because I was blessed with a great arm. But I had to learn to pitch on the Major League level and I don't think it's really fair to young pitchers or young hitters to do that unless they've proven that they're capable of hitting on that level or pitching on that level and being successful.
Chuck: From the time you were with the Rangers I always thought of you as my idol. I modeled my pitching style and my training program after you. Have you implemented a training program for the current Rangers pitchers that even resembles the program you followed during your career? Question submitted by: Scott Smith
Nolan: It's been publicized this spring that in the offseason we really stressed conditioning. We felt like that was the first thing we needed to do for our pitchers and build a foundation for their conditioning. We increased their workload in spring training and their throwing workload by throwing batting practice and throwing long and doing the things I felt like were important to me that should be important to them. Then our theme in Spring Training was to throw down in the strike zone, pitch to both sides of the plate, and command the strike zone. That was the philosophy we had in Spring Training and that we're trying to instill throughout our organization. And I really feel like those are the things that are important for a pitcher to be successful.
Chuck: Nolan, I'm going to switch hats on your for a moment, but I've talked with a lot of people out and about at the ballpark and under your leadership, Rob Matwick and his crew have done a great job, and the ballpark is an even better place to watch a game now.
Nolan: I feel like Rob and his department has done a great job. I think the stadium has as good a look now as it ever has with its new boards and the new seats and the brick behind home plate that runs all the way past the dugouts, plus the board in left field. I think the stadium has definitely been enhanced and the day of game employees have done a really good job of trying to make this a friendly environment for people and make our fans feel appreciated when they come here. Now our job is to play better on the field so they enjoy the total experience of coming to the ballpark.
Chuck: We appreciate your time today.
Nolan: Thanks, Chuck. Good talking with you.
Chuck: That was president of the Texas Rangers and one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Nolan Ryan. We hope you join us next month, right here on texasrangers.com. Don't forget, for ticket specials, news, anything Texas Rangers, it is texasrangers.com.