KRISTIE RIEKEN,AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Reid Ryan choked back tears as he was introduced as president of his beloved Astros, the team he grew up watching in the days when his Hall of Fame father, Nolan Ryan, starred as a pitcher for Houston.
“My ties with the Astros go all the way back to 1980 when my dad came over,” Reid Ryan said. “Today really is a dream come true because you grow up an Astros fan if you’re in Houston. Everybody’s got their hometown team, and the Astros were mine. This is just a very special day.”
Astros owner Jim Crane certainly appreciates having the Ryan name associated with his team again, but was quick to point out that Reid Ryan is much more than simply the son of a famous ball player.
“It’s great to have your kid in the business, but now he can prove himself as Reid Ryan,” Crane said. “His dad’s is a famed player, a very, very famous guy, but Reid’s the kind of guy that stands on his own, and I think you’ll see him stand alone in this position and do a great job.”
Since 1998, Ryan, the eldest son of Nolan Ryan, has been the CEO of Ryan-Sanders Baseball, which owns the Triple-A Round Rock Express and Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks. The 41-year-old Reid Ryan helped create the Express, an affiliate of the Texas Rangers and the Hooks, an Astros’ affiliate.
Don Sanders, who co-owns Ryan-Sanders Baseball with Nolan Ryan, raved about Reid Ryan. He pointed out the work he did in luring fans to see his teams, which have often been ranked at the top of the minor leagues in attendance. Reid Ryan also came up with the idea for the Rangers to play two exhibition games at the Alamodome in San Antonio in March that drew more than 75,000 fans.
“If I were going to buy a baseball team and I could have anybody in the country to run it, he’d be the guy,” Sanders said. “He’s just awfully good. I don’t know that in this arena that anybody is any better.”
Reid Ryan takes over a job where he will be tasked with helping increase attendance and win back disillusioned fans to a team that has finished with 100 losses in each of the last two seasons and has the worst record in the majors again this year. He acknowledged that Houston’s problems are complex and that there’s no way he could know how he will work to get things back on track on his first day.
But he did share a couple of keys that he will focus on.
“We have to put the fans first in everything we do and then we’ve got make sure we’re taking care of the players, because it’s all about the players,” Reid Ryan said. “If you don’t have the players, you’re really not going to have anything.”
While the team has been baseball’s worst for the last couple years, Reid Ryan has been impressed with how the infusion of quality prospects from Houston’s many recent trades has improved the organization’s farm system.
“We had a stretch where we finished last five years in a row in Corpus Christi, and it was tough and we didn’t have a lot of prospects,” Reid Ryan said. “Then (general manager) Jeff (Luhnow) started making some of the hard decisions he made … now there’s a lot of talent, a lot more than I’ve seen in my time with the Astros.”
His father played for the Astros from 1980-88 and spent four years beginning in 2004 as a special assistant to the general manager in Houston before joining the front office of the Texas Rangers. His famous dad and former Astros great Craig Biggio were on hand Friday for the announcement.
Though Nolan Ryan now works for Houston’s in-state rival about 200 miles up the road, he still has a keen interest in the team he once played for.
“He grew up an Astros fan. I’m still an Astros fan. I follow them on a day-to-day basis,” Nolan Ryan said. “I’m very connected to the team and very connected to what goes on here in Houston with the baseball climate. So that’s a part of us and will always be a part of us.”
Nolan Ryan said he hasn’t shared any advice with his son about his new job, but he is very excited to see his son working for his former team.
“You’re very proud when you see one of your children get an opportunity of this nature,” Nolan Ryan said. “I’m very proud of the fact that our kids grew up in baseball and have a relationship with baseball and enjoy it and want to be associated with it. So that makes you feel good.”
The younger Ryan takes over the position that was left vacant when George Postolos resigned on Monday.
Also on Friday, Crane announced that he had agreed to a letter of intent to buy the Hooks. The sale is pending MLB and Ryan-Sanders shareholders’ approval. The Astros plan to assume control of operations of the Hooks at the end of the 2013 season.