Ryan's honesty, accessibility will be missed

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It won't be just Texas Rangers fans and employees that will miss Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. The media will, too.

You might think that a guy that has littered the Major League Baseball record books and was a nearly unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer wouldn't be accessible. That he might not have the time to talk about not only the team, but the game itself. But that wasn't Nolan Ryan.

Former Rangers owner Tom Hicks knew he needed someone who could not only excite fans, but put a jolt into his baseball team. Ryan provided just what he needed. The Texas legend joined the club in February 2008 and did more listening and observing than anything else. Rather than come in and make a bunch of changes, Ryan evaluated. He didn't know general manager Jon Daniels or manager Ron Washington, but he got to know them. He learned to respect them. And he went about remaking the image of the organization.

The Rangers were a bunch of mashers. Daniels and Ryan set out to change that. Ryan's attitude was a huge part of that. He stressed throughout the organization that it was time to push the starting pitchers. It was time to quit allowing rigid pitch counts to determine what a player can do. One spring training, he said it like this (and I'm paraphrasing): "Get one more out, one more inning. Push yourself just a little more than you think you can. Figure out where exactly that line is."

It made a difference. Pitching helped catapult this team to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. And all the while, Ryan would praise the players and coaches. All he wanted was a title. He never got it in Texas, though he came a strike away twice.

But in dealing with the media, Ryan was refreshing. He called a spade a spade. His honestly only added to his credibility. He rarely dodged a question, and if you really needed a quote from him on a particular subject, he'd give it to you. Few people could tell better stories than Ryan, who would remember details of pitch sequences and various parts of games that were four decades in the rearview mirror.

That kind of accessibility to the media allowed Ryan to be an important and valuable voice to the fans. That's going to be missed.