Nolan Ryan: Decision to retire as Rangers CEO 'weighed on me heavily'

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by JOE TRAHAN & MARJORIE OWENS

Bio | Email | Follow: @joetrahan

WFAA

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 18 at 12:13 PM

ARLINGTON — The Texas Rangers have announced iconic figure Nolan Ryan will retire as chief executive officer from the Texas Rangers. His retirement will go into effect on Oct. 31.

"This closes a chapter in my life in baseball," Ryan said Thursday during a news conference. "I feel like it's time for me to move on to other things. So, it's a decision that has weighed on me heavily, but I feel like it's the right decision. When you make these types of decisions you have to do it from the heart."

Ryan, 66, has worked with the Rangers for more than five years. In February 2008, he became the team's tenth president. A little more than three years later, he was named CEO. Previous to those roles, he played with the team from 1989 to 1993 after an eight-year stint with the Houston Astros.

Rumors of trouble between team ownership and Ryan began to swirl after chief operating officer Rick George and general manager Jon Daniels were given presidential titles in February. However, by April, the Rangers announced Ryan would remain with the team as CEO. In July, George, who attended Thursday's conference, resigned from his job as president of business operations to work with the University of Colorado Boulder.

Ryan's relationship with Daniels, president of baseball operations, has been a hot topic since the shift in duties. The two formed a mix of new school versus old school approaches to the game that produced some of the best baseball the Rangers ever played. The thought was they provided each other with a great system of checks and balances and an ability to see and understand the many facets involved in big baseball decisions.

During a March interview on ESPN Radio 103.3, Daniels said his relationship with Ryan was good.

"My day-to-day responsibilities for running the department are for me and the individual department heads to solicit Nolan's opinions and input and communicate with him, and on the biggest decisions — big-picture items, vision, direction of the franchise — those are the things that I think a CEO and somebody with his background are going to weigh in on most heavily."

Thursday, Ryan once again affirmed his relationship with Daniels as good.

"Our relationship didn't come to play on this," he said.

Instead, he said his decision to retire was largely based on sharing time with his grandchildren and spending time at his ranch.

The Rangers missed the 2013 playoffs after making the previous three, which included two trips to the World Series that took North Texas baseball fans where they had never been before. During his time the Rangers, there were four consecutive seasons in which there were 90 wins.

During spring training, Ryan was tight-lipped as the speculation spread. Now, less than nine months later, the Hall of Famer is headed out the door.

At the Thursday conference, Rangers co-chairmen Ray Davis and Bob Simpson both shared their gratitude toward Ryan and described their relationship to the former pro-pitcher as fans first.

"I was first a fan of Nolan's before I was a friend," Simpson said. "Going back to the day he was becoming a legend, probably the greatest pitcher of all time — I think we would all acknowledge that's a ... title he deserves."

Simpson admitted he bought a ticket from a scalper so that he could attend the game where Nolan made his 5000th strikeout on Aug. 22, 1989.

"I was listening to the radio and the announcer that day said, 'Whatever you do, don't go to the ballpark tonight. It's sold out and Nolan Ryan's got a chance at a 5,000th strikeout,'" Simpson recalled. "So, me and my fellow worker considered that a challenge."

Davis said both he and Simpson were "disappointed in the decision he's made, but we understand it." He also addressed talk of the power restructuring leading to Ryan's retirement.

"From a corporate standpoint, Nolan's authority didn't change at all," he said. "What we were trying to do is recognize the accomplishments and responsibility of our two departments, being baseball and business ... All major decisions in baseball, Nolan had final decision."

However, a reporter questioned that answer, addressing whether Ryan had final say in the decision to let bench coach Jackie Moore go in early October.

"If you're going to hold people responsible for departments, then they have to have the autonomy to make decisions within their department or you don't need them," Davis responded. "So, there's times when there's going to be disagreements, perhaps. But, if they're major decisions, then it has to be a consensus."

Davis and Simpson bought Nolan's interest in the Rangers and said they had no plans to find a replacement for Nolan. Instead, Simpson said they will step up their roles when needed.

"It sounds a little trite, but frankly Nolan Ryan's not replaceable," he said.

Ryan brought with him an ability to legitimize what the Rangers were trying to accomplish. He also convinced many in baseball that pitchers could find success at the Rangers Ballpark, a notion many scoffed at before.

“I am extremely proud of what this organization has accomplished," Ryan said in a statement. "On the field, we have enjoyed great success at the major league level. The fans have supported us in record numbers the last two years and we have been able to upgrade the ballpark and enhance the in-game experience to reward that loyalty."

During the news conference, Ryan once again addressed the fans and those within the Rangers organization.

"I was here during a very exciting time," he said. "And to see the support we got from our fan base here is very rewarding for me to have been part of that."

Ryan frequently sat with President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, at Rangers games. The former president and former Texas Rangers co-owner said Ryan "brought a lot" to the baseball club.

"[Nolan Ryan] was a great pitcher, and he is a great person," the former president said. "The Rangers will miss his presence -- and I will miss sitting next to my pal at the ballpark. Laura and I wish Nolan and Ruth all the very best."

When asked whether he was retiring or resigning, Ryan said, "Will I be a CEO of another major league ball club? No, I won't."

Email jtrahan@wfaa.com

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