Ryan's son on his own as minor-league rookie

August 21, 1994|By New York Daily News

FISHKILL, N.Y. -- Reid Ryan is a rookie right-hander for the Hudson Valley Renegades and, of course, he knows the numbers. How could Nolan's oldest boy not know them?

Still, this was different. Ryan visited Cooperstown, N.Y., for the first time last week. He sought out the exhibits commemorating his father's no-hitters (seven), his strikeouts (5,714), the whole mind-numbing numerical parade built over 27 seasons.

He stared at the displays, partly in awe, fully proud.

"I'm used to my dad being a legend and all that, but you don't really think of what he's done until you go up there and see all the records and numbers they have," Ryan said. "It kind of puts into perspective how special the things he achieved really are."

Reid Ryan, 22, was born 19 days before his father was traded to the California Angels. Going into his 12th start of his pro career in the New York-Penn League (A) Thursday night, against the Welland Pirates, Ryan was 3-4 with a 2.73 ERA and, as long as you're wondering, 46 strikeouts in 66 innings.

These are not Nolan Ryan power numbers for quite a good reason. Reid Ryan has his father's face and his big leg kick and his delivery, which they spent hours together working on. He does not have his father's right arm. Who does?

Ryan throws in the mid-80s. He mixes pitches, hits spots. He's working on getting a tighter spin on his breaking ball. His manager, Doug Sisson, says he finds hitters' weaknesses better than any pitcher on the team. Only one man has thrown the ball close to 100 mph for nearly three decades. The son seems entirely at peace with that.

"People ask about comparisons. Well, there are none," Ryan said. "He's a superstar. He's one of the best pitchers ever. You could take Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, all the best pitchers today, and tell them, 'OK, you have to get 300 wins, 5,000 strikeouts, pitch seven no-hitters.' They won't be able to do it. So why should I?"

He was asked if he had ever wished he could be just another prospect, the Texas Rangers' 17th-round pick and that's all. He shook his head. "I think being Nolan Ryan's son is something great. I've been able to experience things thousands of other kids only dream about. The positives outweigh the negatives by far."

From his office in Alvin, Texas, Nolan Ryan said: "He understands he has to be his own person. Reid has a real good handle on that. He's a different style pitcher than I am. He [knows] what he has to do to be effective."

It is sometimes assumed, wrongly, that the offspring of famous people have an all but pre-paved road to the big time. Ryan has had anything but. He didn't decide he really wanted to pitch until late in high school. He started his college career at Texas, then transferred to Texas Christian. For two years at TCU, his good outings were interspersed with bad ones.

TCU coach Lance Brown shudders when he recalls how people would yell at him, "Does your father know how horrible you are?"

Said Ryan: "It was bad. Everywhere I went people said stuff. But it matured me a lot."

But by far the biggest hurdle thrown at him was in 1979, near the Ryan home in California. Ryan was 7. He had been playing at a neighbor's house and was running home. He never saw the car and was run over. He spent 2 1/2 months in the hospital, another month in a body cast. He lost his spleen and a kidney, broke a leg and ribs. There's a two-foot scar through his midsection as a souvenir.

Even at such a young age, he said it changed his life, made him appreciate his family and made him understand there are no guarantees.

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