Ryan kicks off inaugural Rangers chat
Team president discusses his career, club's chances online
Chuck Morgan, voice of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, interviewed Rangers president Nolan Ryan for the Rangers web chat, the first one in Rangers history.
The following is a transcript of the video. Some content in this transcript may have been changed to provide constancy in the conversation.
Chuck: We're honored to have our first guest, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Nolan, we've got questions from all over the country and all over the state of Texas.
What changes do we see from new pitching coach Andy Hawkins and bullpen coach Jim Colborn that will make things better, and what kind of pitching upgrades will we see this offseason to help out the offense to get the Rangers to the next level after all the progress we made this season?
Question submitted by: Jacob Patton
Nolan: With the pitching change, when we brought in Andy to head up our pitching and be our pitching coach, and with as many young players as we have on our team right now, they're more familiar with Andy because they've been working with him in the Minor Leagues over the last couple of years. I think it's a relation change where they are more familiar with the pitching coach, and they feel that he understands their deliveries and how they pitch. So it's mainly the comfort level for our pitchers, to see if it will help them be more consistent.
I can remember when starters pitched the whole game unless there was a problem. Are you planning to start getting the rotation ready to go deeper into the game?
Question submitted by: John Hester
Nolan: That's our goal, to get our starting pitchers to pitch later into the game. Get into the seventh and eighth innings so we don't have to use as many people out of the bullpen each night. What that will do is not put you in a position where you don't have to rely so much on the bullpen, and then you have a tendency to overwork those guys in the bullpen. I think it will be much more effective, and those guys will be sharper when they come into the game.
What is going to be your pitching philosophy for the organization? Do you see pitching being developed through the farm system, or do you see the free-agent market as a way to put together a pitching staff that can contend in the American League West?
Question submitted by: Miguel Picart
Nolan: Well, obviously we are looking to contend. We want to contend by next year from the standpoint of trying to win the division. We have as good an offensive ball club as there is in baseball. So we feel like developing pitchers from within our system is the route to go. We are more familiar with them, we know their history. We understand their deliveries. We feel like that's the route to go, and we feel like we have enough talented young arms that we can do that. Now, to go out on the free-agent market, if there is an individual out there this fall that we feel like can make a difference in our ballclub then we will certainly be looking at them.
Chuck: We've talked about this before, Nolan, pitchers pitching in this ballpark and then about developing pitchers, can you develop them in this ballpark?
Nolan: Well, you can. You can develop more young pitchers that are more sinkerball-style pitchers that pitcher down in the strike zone. But the way I look at this ballpark, the opposing pitcher has to pitch in this ballpark, too. So it doesn't work against us. Really, we look at their performance -- how many innings they give you, if they get you late into the game, whether they keep you in the game -- those are the things we look at. We don't look at the ERAs, things that are normally judged on pitchers. Because you have to take into effect that it's not fair to a pitcher that pitches in Colorado and have his ERA compared to someone that may pitch in a pitcher friendly ballpark like the Astrodome used to be.
Can the Rangers develop a culture and tradition of good pitching?
Question submitted by: Fred Miska
Nolan: I think we can. I think we have to get pitchers that understand how to use the strike zone -- moving the ball in and out, keeping it down -- and if they understand that if you give up a run or two in this ballpark that that's not going to be the outcome of the game early on because of the nature of the ballpark. Also, the fact that we have a heavily offensive ballclub helps.
Are the Rangers going to the playoffs this year?
Question submitted by: Stephanie Bickley
Nolan: Well, I certainly hope we are. I have a feeling that we have a shot at it. It obviously comes down to how we play these last two months. I think offensively, we can play with anybody, and I feel like our young pitchers are starting to settle in and throw more strikes. I think from the last week of July heading into August we've seen better control out of them. I think you can see their poise has changed. So I really feel good about them, and I think we'll see more consistency out of them, and if we can do that, I believe we have a real shot.
After years as a special assistant to the front office for the Rangers and Astros, what made you decide to become the Rangers' president now, and what are some of your expectations for the future?
Question submitted by: Chad Adams
Nolan: Well this is something I always wanted to do and it was a window of opportunity that I felt like wasn't going to present itself again at the time in my life that I could do it. It was a good time in my life to make this change. I felt like it was a fit for me and I really feel like with this ballclub that we have, and the personnel we have in place, I'm looking forward to a very consistent organization. That's our goal, build with in our system, and be very consistent in what we do and hopefully be a contender for each and every year.
Chuck: In watching you this week, [the cameras] shot you a lot when we were playing Seattle and Toronto with some come-from-behind wins and I can't believe you were any more excited than when you pitched a no-hitter than you have been the past couple of weeks.
Nolan: Well, it's exciting to see this team. They don't ever think they are beat, no matter how much they're down in the last inning. And they find ways to score runs and I appreciate their spirit and I appreciate the heart that they have and the way they play the game. And I'm a fan, just like everyone else sitting in the stands.
Has any consideration been given to requiring pitchers to get into decent physical condition? Same for certain position players, such as Gerald Laird, so he can run to first base without pulling a hamstring?
Question submitted by: Glenn Phillips
Nolan: We would like to think our players are in shape. We have a conditioning and strength coach, and there is a lot of responsibility given to him. I think he does a good job. We're going to try to get our starting pitchers in even better shape next spring. Stretching them out where they are throwing more pitches and go deeper into the game. Injuries like Gerald's can just happen. I think because of the heat here, we really have to focus on hydration and I think sometimes we have players that get dehydrated. When that happens I think you increase your chances of a pull like Gerald had, or maybe what's happened to Milton [Bradley]. We don't know what causes some injuries, but we try to address that on a daily basis so we can stay away from them if at all possible.
Why does the umpire change baseballs when a pitch hits the dirt? A line drive can skip across the dirt or even hit the wall and it will not be changed for a new baseball.
Question submitted by: Austin Wartelle
Nolan: The standard policy is when the ball hits the dirt or hits the plate, if it hits home plate, its texture will put a scuff on the ball, and then it can go to the advantage of the pitcher. So obviously every hitter wants that ball changed. Then if it hits in the infield, it's not as likely to be scuffed up like that, versus hitting the plate. So to take that question out of the game, the umpires were probably directed to throw every ball out that hit the ground. I think the average life of a baseball is seven pitches.
If you could change one thing in your career, what would it be and why?
Question submitted by: Brian Sheridan
Nolan: It would be to have had better control early in my career. I came up as a hard thrower and didn't know anything about pitching. I got there because I was blessed with a great arm. If you could have changed that and had the background where I understood mechanics and how to pitch earlier in my career, I think I would have experienced a lot less frustration.
Chuck: Is that what changed for you, the control? And when did you learn that?
Nolan: It was a learning process and when I went to the California Angels and Tom Morgan was my pitching coach, he was the one that was able to present it to me to the point that I really started to understand the mechanics of throwing a baseball. If you understand and are able to execute proper mechanics then you can learn to throw the ball where you want it. Pitching has to do with your body control. Most hard throwers are overthrowers and it's all they've ever done as a youngster. They are imprinted that way and you have to overcome that. That's why you see so many hard throwers that have a tendency to be wild. It's because they didn't know any better and weren't taught at an early age. There are a lot of things through the experiences I've had in my career that I can help young pitchers that I see that have the same problems I had at that point in my career.
Chuck: Do you feel like the Mets may have rushed you to the big leagues?
Nolan: Oh, they did. I got there at 19, and I was there because I was blessed with a great arm. They didn't have much pitching in their system and they were trying to get some respectability, and it happened that I came along in their organization at a time that I got there early.
Chuck: In 1969. Maybe they made the right decision?
Nolan: It was a combination of young players and a few older players, veteran players that had very good consistent years, and it all came together.
Who was your favorite catcher that caught you through out your career?
Question submitted by: Bryan Cragg
Nolan: I tell people the most talented catcher I ever threw to was Pudge [Ivan Rodriguez]. I threw to Pudge very early on in his Major League career, and obviously he's a much better catcher today then he was when he first got to the big leagues. I could see then that he was the most talented catcher I ever threw to. I enjoyed throwing to some of the veteran catchers like Jeff Torborg. He caught Sandy Koufax and his perfect game. Throwing to [Torborg] and him knowing hitters and understanding the relationship between the pitcher and catcher was definitely beneficial.
Chuck: Along the way, do you feel like you taught Pudge a few things?
Nolan: I think when a young catcher catches a veteran pitcher, and he understands the rhythm and system that you have and how you set hitters up and stuff, I'm sure that Pudge learned a lot from the older pitchers that he caught, because I think there was probably a part of the game he hadn't addressed at the age of 19.
What do you feel are the most important steps in teaching pitching to young kids? What are the three or four fundamentals or steps that you would teach?
Question submitted by: Brad Pittman
Nolan: With young kids, you teach them whatever their arm slot is, and then you teach them that you have to have balance and body control. That your body delivers your arm, your arm delivers the ball, and it's a sequence that has to be proper because if you get out of sequence then you have no chance of throwing strikes.
Chuck: When we were growing up, we would go outside and play baseball all day long during the summer time. Do kids throw enough any more or do they throw too much?
Nolan: In my opinion, they don't throw nearly enough. So we don't develop that foundation and that stamina in them. When we do extend them or they go in and have a long inning, that's when they increase their chances of experiencing an injury. A lot of it has to do with the cultural changes in our society and kids don't play outdoors as much any more.
Chuck: They all love to hit, though?
Nolan: (chuckling) They want to get in the cage.
Who did you look up to most when you were an up and coming pitcher?
Question submitted by: Mark Adams
Nolan: As a pitcher I became a fan of Koufax. I really liked the way Sandy pitched and appreciated the way he competed and the person he is. And spending four years in the Mets system with Tom Seaver seeing his work ethic and seeing the way he went about his career definitely had an influence on me.
Chuck: I speak for all the fans -- we thank you for your time today.
Nolan: Thank you Chuck, I enjoyed it.
Next month we're going to have Jon Daniels, Rangers general manager, in the hot seat. Submit a question for JD today.
Chuck Morgan is the voice of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.