HOUSTON -- Now that Nolan Ryan is back with Houston, the
Astros had little trouble finding the perfect job for him.
The Hall of Famer is putting his extensive experience and wisdom
to use by hosting a weeklong camp for pitchers in the Astros'
organization. The camp opened Monday, his 58th birthday, at Minute
"It's an opportunity for me to get to know some of the younger
pitchers in the organization," Ryan said. "It's a chance for me
to stress to the kids what a unique opportunity they have and the
commitment they need to make toward their careers."
Ryan already has watched many Astros pitchers come up through
the minors because he owns the team's Triple-A affiliate in Round
Rock and Double-A affiliate at Corpus Christi.
The hope is that some of Ryan's expertise might rub off on
fledgling big leaguers such as Tim Redding and Brandon Duckworth,
as well as emerging prospects such as Ezequiel Astacio (13-10 at
Round Rock last year) and Troy Patton (a ninth-round pick in 2004).
"When you have a guy like Nolan Ryan sitting around and talking
to them, they perk up and listen," said Dewey Robinson, the club's
minor league pitching coordinator.
Ryan, who pitched for Houston from 1980-88, returned to the
Astros when he signed a personal services contract in January 2004.
He spent much of last season watching and advising pitchers
throughout the organization, mostly those at Round Rock.
The Astros recently decided to expand his role by creating the
camp, which includes only four pitchers on the 40-man major league
"Part of it was in regard to how we can best use Nolan's
services as an adviser to the club," general manager Tim Purpura
said. "And how we can continue to grow our pitching program. We
definitely may expand this in the future."
For much of Monday's opening session, Ryan stood to the side
offering advice while pitchers took their turn throwing off the
mound. The three-hour workout was videotaped and will be reviewed
by the pitchers on Tuesday and Thursday, with Ryan and the Astros'
coaching staff offering tips along the way.
"We're getting some words of advice from a true superstar and a
true legend," said Redding, who spent plenty of time with Ryan
during his days at Round Rock. "If we don't open up our ears and
close our mouths, we'll miss a lot."
Ryan first joined the Astros after the 1979 season when
then-owner John McMullen lured him away from the California Angels
with the first seven-digit average salary in baseball history. The
Astros won their first division title in 1980.
The hard-throwing right-hander helped lead the Astros to a
second NL West title in 1986. Along the way he threw one of his
seven no-hitters, broke Walter Johnson's career strikeouts record
and became the first pitcher to strike out 4,000.
But Ryan departed unhappily after the 1988 season when McMullen
declined to make a serious bid to keep him. He signed with the
Rangers at 41 and went on to pitch two more no-hitters and boost
his strikeout total to 5,714 before retiring in 1993 at 46.
Ryan then fulfilled a 10-year personal services contract with
Texas, and went into the Hall of Fame as a Ranger.
After Ryan turned down a new deal with Texas, Astros owner
Drayton McLane signed him to a five-year contract.
"I enjoy this role at this point in my life," Ryan said. "I
feel like I have something to offer. I'm certainly interested in