Hall of Fame pitcher shares insights at UHV fundraiser
Nolan Ryan Statistics
Teams: New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers
ERA: 3.19 ERA
Innings Pitched: 5,386
Bases on Balls: 2,795
Terry Puhl was sitting at his locker in the Houston Astros dressing room when he looked up, and Nolan Ryan was standing in front of him.
Ryan had just no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he wanted to thank Puhl for making a running catch in the outfield to help preserve the fifth no-hitter of his career.
"I can tell you this," Ryan said. "In every no-hitter that I threw somebody on that team put me in that position. Terry made that catch. I can go back and recall in each game a play that was made that gave me an opportunity to be in that position in the ninth inning."
Puhl appreciated the gesture and viewed it as another measure of the kind of man baseball's career strikeout leader and Hall of Famer has been on and off the field.
"I was like, 'Wow,' " Puhl recalled. "He was a true pro. It's not surprising he's a successful person. Not just in baseball, but in life. He's lived life the way it's supposed to be lived."
Puhl and Ryan played together for nine seasons on the Astros, and they got together again Wednesday night at Riverside Stadium during A Night for the Jaguars, a fundraiser for the UHV athletic programs.
"What impressed me about him was his work ethic," said Puhl, who is about to begin his seventh season as UHV's head baseball coach. "His work ethic was second to none. He just took care of himself."
Ryan, 66, is still active in baseball as part-owner and chief executive officer of the Texas Rangers.
"You look at it with a totally different perspective," Ryan said. "I've enjoyed the business side of the game and learning that and being involved in it and the challenges of that and the impact of what happens on the field has on the whole organization. That doesn't take away from enjoying what goes on the field on a daily basis."
The Rangers are in first place in the American League West, and Ryan appreciates the job manager Ron Washington has done.
"I think that Ron has grown as a manager each year that I've been involved," Ryan said. "I think he probably has more confidence and has a better feel for getting through the season and trying to position your ballclub to be in the postseason. Hopefully, he'll get the recognition I think he's deserving and maybe be Manager of the Year."
The season has not been without challenges for the Rangers, especially with the 50-game suspension of outfielder Nelson Cruz for his use of performance enhancing drugs.
Cruz could rejoin the team if the Rangers make the playoffs. He will also be a free agent after the season, and the team has a decision to make.
"We are just going to see how it goes," Ryan said. "It's an ongoing process obviously. When the suspension came down our attitude was we were going to see how he handled it, how our fan base reacted to it, how his teammates did, what their thoughts and how they viewed it.
"We took all those things into consideration whether he comes back he would be eligible for the postseason. When we get to that point you have to evaluate you ballclub, how the team feels about receiving him back. We don't know what will transpire."
Ryan was more than willing to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. He also had some advice for future ballplayers.
"I'm a believer that it's important for a kid's development to play - I played all sports and I played whatever was in season," he said. "I really would like to see kids get into that and do more of that because what we have is we're getting kids to specialize at a very early age, and I think that's not necessarily in their best interest as far as their development."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.