Friday, October 21, 2011

Nolan Ryan – ready to win the World Series

The first two games of the World Series are in the books, regardless of whether the St. Louis Cardinals or the Texas Rangers win the 2011 World Series, Rangers owner Nolan Ryan will forever be the symbol of the Fall Classic. Seeing Ryan sitting in the first row just to the left of the Rangers dugout will remain etched in the memories of not only baseball fans but sports fans everywhere. Ryan’s Rangers are heading back to Texas with the of best of seven series tied at 1-1, with games three, four and five scheduled for the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Ryan is telling everyone his Rangers have plenty of game left before the 2011World Series is decided, but what else would anyone expect from the Baseball Hall of Fame member.

The transition from being an athlete to sports executive isn’t easy. As successful as Magic Johnson has been as a businessman he hasn’t been a very good sports executive. Wayne Gretzky was part of the Phoenix Coyotes ownership group, Gretzky and the Coyotes didn’t work out for the Great One or for the Coyotes. It remains to be seen if Michael Jordan succeeds with the Charlotte Bobcats. Mario Lemieux has proved to be an exception to the rule. As the owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins Lemieux played a key role in the Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup.

Clearly Nolan Ryan is a cut above most professional athletes when it comes to making that transition from the playing field to the boardroom, at least when that boardroom is linked to the playing field.

Ryan serves as CEO and President of the Texas Rangers. He is part of the team's ownership group, Rangers Baseball Express, which completed its purchase of the franchise on August 12, 2010. He oversees all baseball and business operations for the franchise after adding the title of CEO on March 11, 2011.

Baseball's all-time strikeout leader was named as the tenth President in Texas Rangers team history on February 6, 2008 and has had a dramatic impact on the franchise in his three years on the job. Off the field, he has instilled a renewed commitment to providing the best fan experience and making the Rangers a strong community partner. The Rangers had the highest per-game attendance increase in the majors from 2008 to 2009 and the third largest increase from 2009 to 2010.

His influence on baseball operations helped the Rangers advance to postseason in 2010 for the first time since 1999. He is the first National Baseball Hall of Fame player to advance to postseason play in the role as team President or General Manager since Stan Musial served as General Manager of the 1967 N.L. Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Ryan is the first individual to serve as President of a World Series participant and play in a World Series (1969 with the New York Mets) since Al Rosen, who played on World Series teams with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 and 1954 and was the President-General Manager of the N.L. Champion San Francisco Giants in 1989.

Ryan's pedigree as one of the greatest pitchers in major league history has also served as a positive influence as the Rangers develop and refine their pitching philosophies, which incorporate Nolan's trademarks of conditioning, hard work, good mechanics, focus, and mental toughness. The Ranger’s team-earned run average decreased from 5.37 in 2008 to 4.38 in 2009 to 3.93 in 2010, the latter figure being the team's best since 1990.

Ryan is just the third Hall of Fame player to serve as the President of a Major League Baseball franchise, joining John Montgomery Ward (1912) and Christy Mathewson (1923 and 1925), both with the Boston Braves, and the first to work for a World Series participant.

The 64-year-old Ryan was previously affiliated with the Rangers for nearly 15 years as a player and Special Assistant. Initially signing with Texas as a free agent on December 7, 1988, the right-hander spent five memorable years in a Rangers uniform before retiring after the 1993 season. He then served as Special Assistant to the President under his personal services contract, assisting in the club's baseball, marketing, and public relations activities until January 2004. He is an inaugural member of the Texas Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame (2003) and is the only player to have his number retired by the club (#34).

Elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, Ryan was inducted on July 25, 1999 wearing a Rangers cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Nolan was elected to the Hall of Fame on 98.79% of the eligible ballots, a figure which remains the second highest in history. He is the only player to ever have his uniform number retired by three different teams with the Angels (#30) and Astros (#34) joining the Rangers.

After leaving the Rangers, Ryan spent four years as Special Assistant to the General Manager for the Houston Astros after joining the organization in February 2004. In that capacity, he assisted the baseball operations staff in a variety of areas on the major and minor league level.

After his retirement as an active player, Ryan was able to pursue a number of business ventures. He is a Principal Owner of Ryan-Sanders Baseball, which owns and operates the Round Rock Express of the Pacific Coast League, a new Texas Rangers affiliate in 2011, and the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Texas League, a Houston Astros farm club. The two franchises have been among the most successful in the minor leagues over the last several years.

For a number of years Nolan owned and served as Chairman of the Board of The Express Bank in Alvin and The Express Bank of Texas in Round Rock, and he currently serves on the Board of R Bank in Round Rock. He has several working cattle ranches in South Texas.

In December 1999, Nolan became a limited partner in Beefmaster Cattlemen, LP, a branded beef company that markets Nolan Ryan Tender Aged Beef. He is past President of the Beefmaster Breeders United, a national cattle organization. His other civic involvements include serving on the Boards of Directors of the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, Nolan Ryan Foundation, and Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. He served on the Board of Trustees of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Foundation and is a member of the Texas Heart Institute's National Advisory Council.

The Nolan Ryan Foundation built the Nolan Ryan Center for Continuing Education at Alvin Community College, a facility which opened in 1996. He also sponsors the Nolan Ryan Scholarship Fund at Alvin Community College.

Ryan was appointed by then Governor George W. Bush to a six-year term as a commissioner with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on Feb. 24, 1995. He served as Vice Chairman of the Commission from June 1, 1995-Aug 28, 1997.

On October 6 Wall Street Journal suggested that Ryan may be the perfect owner and that his hands are on nearly every facet of the Texas Rangers. It was Ryan, the Journal suggested, who made it clear the team was to forget about the pitch counts for the teams’ younger pitchers. It was Ryan who played a key role in the hiring of Hitting Coach Mike Maddux. Not to mention that after a pitcher is removed from the game, one of the games greatest often leaves his seat and takes the time to chat with the pitcher. A Hall of Famer offering his insight to a young pitcher – that’s what Nolan Ryan in part brings to the Rangers.

"For some of the young pitchers it might be an important moment where you can get some information to them that can help in their development," Ryan told the WSJ.

Ryan and Chuck Greenberg won the Rangers in an auction on August 5, 2010, winning the control of the Rangers over Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The bidding resulted in a final sale price of $593 million, $385 million cash and $208 million in assumed liabilities.

Rangers Baseball Express, LLC, had previously signed a definitive agreement to purchase the Texas Rangers team from Tom Hicks and Hicks Sports Group on January 23, 2010. The sale fell apart resulting in the August 5, 2010 auction.

A series of business issues between Ryan and Greenberg saw Greenberg resign as CEO and sell his shares in the Rangers in early March. Ryan who is in the first of a five-year contract as the Rangers CEO and President met with Bob Simpson (Ryan’s co-CEO) and the Rangers’ moneyman. Simpson agreed to increase the Rangers payroll by 70% to around $100 million.

The Rangers are the first team since the 1992 Atlanta Braves to make it back to the World Series after making it to and losing the World Series the year before. The Rangers are hoping history doesn’t repeat itself. The Braves lost the 1991 World Series to the Minnesota Twins and the 1992 Series to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ryan pushed Greenberg out of the Rangers for a lot of reasons – the most important was that he believed he was acting in the best interests of his team. The Rangers payroll increased to the $100 million range and with a new $1.5 billion TV contract does Ryan believe he’ll have even more money for the teams’ payroll?

“It's hard to say because it's hard to predict what your challenges are going to be; 2015 is the first year of that (deal). We don't look at it from that perspective. We look at it from the perspective of wanting to be competitive each year coming out of spring training.” Ryan told the USA Today.

There has been a great deal of speculation that Ryan and the Rangers are going to welcome the Houston Astros to the American League’s Western Division next year when MLB realigns.

“If that happens, it puts another team in the Western Division that's in our time zone, and I think that's important. We're somewhat disadvantaged being the only team in the West that's in the Central time zone. We start so many 9 o'clock games out on the West Coast, and I think it hurts our viewing audience because of the late start.

“If you had the Astros in there, it would give you a few more games in your time zone, and when they get competitive again, it would be a natural rivalry, and it would be good for baseball in Texas.”

Back to back American League pennants, a $1.5 billion TV contract in the not too distant future, the soft spoken Ryan told the USA Today, he’s having a good time working in baseball long after his career ended.

“Some days I really enjoy it, like, and some days it's not nearly as fun. But I like the challenge of it, and I like being associated with a major league ballclub. The pluses certainly outweigh the minuses.”

The Houston Astros signed Ryan to baseball’s first million dollars a year contract in 1980. Ryan retired after the 1993 season as a member of the Texas Rangers, long before baseball players and in particular pitchers were being paid tens of millions of dollars to play baseball. There have been reports that if New York Yankees ace "CC" Sabathia opts out of his Yankees contract he might sign with the Rangers. If that is going to take place Nolan Ryan, baseball strikeout king and the man who pitched seven no hitters, will be front and center paying a baseball pitcher more money then Ryan made in his entire career to pitch for the team he is the President and CEO of.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom Sources cited in this Insider Report:

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