A day at the ballpark with Nolan Ryan

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, June 16, 2012

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Our sports editor, Richard Greene, got married this week.

And because of that, I got to cross something off my bucket list.

OK, I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, getting to meet Nolan Ryan would be at or near the top of that list.

How are those two momentous moments related?

I’ll explain.

The Texas Center for Community Journalism at Texas Christian University regularly puts on workshops on various aspects of – you guessed it – community journalism. Messenger employees have been attending sessions for years.

But this year, TCCJ tried something new with a sports writing class. It would be held at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Those attending get to tour the facility, go to a game and, best of all, have Nolan Ryan as a guest speaker.

Richard got the email about the session. It just so happened to fall on the date of his wedding, and that’s one plan you really can’t break.

He asked if I wanted to go instead. For the chance to meet Nolan Ryan? I’m not sure if he had finished the sentence before I was already online filling out the registration form. Those sessions are known to fill up in a matter of hours if not minutes, even without a baseball hall-of-famer on the guest speaker list.

About a week later, I got an email confirming my acceptance to the class. Thirty journalists had made the cut, and the waiting list to get into the class should anyone not be able to make it was even longer.

So on Thursday, probably about the same time Richard was saying “I do,” I was in a workshop in the office building at Rangers Ballpark watching as the team president and my boyhood hero walked in and took a seat probably no more than 15 feet from me.

I was there as a journalist, so I wouldn’t be asking for autographs or even asking for him to pose with me for a photo. I had hoped to maybe shake his hand, but time didn’t allow it.

Instead, I snapped a few photos and hit my recorder as Nolan talked to us about a professional athlete’s perspective of life in the media spotlight.

In the weeks leading up to the workshop, I thought of all the questions I’d like to ask him. But as it turned out, I couldn’t think of one darn question to ask when the opportunity presented itself.

Nolan talked to us for about 30 minutes, taking questions from the media like he’s done since his professional baseball career began in the mid-’60s.

My mind couldn’t help but wander just a bit as I listened to Nolan.

I remembered being that 12-year-old kid on a camping trip listening to the Rangers game on the truck radio as Nolan struck out Rickey Henderson for number 5,000, or seeing him pitch in person at the old Arlington Stadium the next year, at my first professional baseball game.

I’ve still got the ticket stub in one of three scrapbooks I made in my teenage years, which include newspaper clippings of some of his signature moments.

In fact, now that I think about it, reading those sports stories and clipping out those stories was probably my first real interaction with a newspaper and no doubt played a big part in my entering the journalism field.

So it seemed almost fitting Thursday morning that those two completely different, yet connected, threads of my life converged once again at the ballpark.

So congratulations, Richard, and thank you.

I’ll try to write more about the session with Nolan Ryan (and maybe even get some audio posted) in our Making a Mess blog next week.

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