MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Nolan proud of son's new opportunity

Nolan proud of son's new opportunity

HOUSTON -- Nolan Ryan spoke as a proud parent. He spoke as a baseball man, too. He thought Astros owner Jim Crane got it right in naming his oldest son, Reid Ryan, 41, the team's president of business operations on Friday.

"As a parent, you're very proud to see your son get this opportunity," he said. "I'm also very proud that our kids grew up in baseball and want to be associated with it. That makes you feel good. I know Reid has a passion for the game, and that's really important. He has dedicated his adult life to baseball, and so to get an opportunity like this is very unique. We're very appreciative of Jim considering him and giving him this opportunity."

Did he offer advice?

"I told him, 'Reid, if that's where you heart is and that's what you want to do and you understand the commitment on your part,'" Nolan said.

So now, Texas is a two-Ryan state. Nolan has been the CEO of the Rangers for the past five years, while Reid takes over as a top executive with the Astros.

Only, it's not that simple.

Nolan has some Astros in his heart. He grew up a short drive from Minute Maid Park in the little town of Alvin, Texas, and became arguably the franchise's most popular player ever during a nine-season stay between 1980-88.

He won 106 games and helped the Astros to their first three playoff appearances. He led the National League in strikeouts twice and in ERA twice during his time in Houston. Beyond the numbers, his essential decency and everyman attitude made him wildly popular.

"Reid grew up an Astro fan," Nolan said. "I'm still an Astro fan. I still follow 'em on a day-to-day basis. That started from the time I used to go out to Buff Stadium to see the Colt .45s. I'd look at that hole in the ground and try to envision what a domed stadium would look like. I'm very connected to the team and with what goes on here in Houston with baseball. That's part of us and will always be a part of us."

Nolan also attempted to set his emotions aside and evaluate his son as a baseball executive. He'd watched him operate successful Minor League franchises in Round Rock and Corpus Christi and saw gifts that will serve him well in his new gig.

"I also think from a baseball standpoint that Jim made a good choice," Nolan said. "I really do. I know Reid probably better than anybody else. I know his passion for the game and his work ethic and all the things he'll bring to that position. I'm very pleased and honored and excited. We feel like Reid is coming in at a time that a lot of good things are going to happen. It's a good exciting time to join the organization.

"I saw him grow in that position [with the Minor League teams]. He was always thinking how he could make the franchise better. He was not afraid to think outside the box to try and attract more fans. He has an understanding how to pass this game on from generation to generation and finding ways to do that."

Nolan has a vision of the Rangers and Astros playing games that will decide playoff berths, games that will captivate an entire state and contests that people will chew on and debate for weeks afterward.

"What I hope someday is we'll have a very competitive relationship between the Astros and Rangers," he said. "We'll be battling for the Western division crown and that not only will the Ryans be involved and connected to it, but all the Texas baseball fans will be, too."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.