One of the men behind the recent success of the Houston Astros, team president Reid Ryan, was in Texas City on Wednesday to talk about the franchise’s turnaround and current state of the team at the Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce’s business luncheon.
“I tell folks the golden age of Astros baseball is here,” Ryan said. “We feel like that we’ve built a club with a core that’s going to be together for the next two years.”
After some pleasantries and sharing his memories of growing up in nearby Alvin, Ryan told his favorite story about his father, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. It was a lesson to always remain humble that took place during a meal at a barbecue restaurant on the way to the Astrodome.
“When you grow up with someone who is famous, you grow accustomed to people coming up and asking for an autograph or maybe a picture or something like that,” Ryan said. “So, we’re sitting there, eating and talking, and we could sense these ladies staring at us. And we’d look over at them, and they’d put their heads down really quick. So, we kind of felt like it was coming.
“Sure enough, this lady gets up, and she comes walking over with her camera,” Ryan continued. “She said, ‘do you mind if I take a picture?’ My dad stood up and said, ‘no, I don’t mind,’ and puts his arm out like that. And she said, ‘great, we’re from Wisconsin, and we’ve never seen onion rings this big.’ The moral of that story is stay humble.”
Ryan took over as team president seven seasons ago when the Astros were in the depths of their radical rebuild. It was, at times, painful for fans to watch, but the team eventually went from regularly losing 100-plus games per season to winning 100-plus games the past two seasons.
The Astros built a strong core of hitters and pitchers, and the franchise now boasts impressive organizational depth — which has been put to the test with a rash of recent injuries.
“It’s amazing how many guys that we have stacked up un our system right now,” Ryan said. “We’ve had a few injuries, as folks have seen, but the winning has not stopped with the depth that we have in our system. We said, basically, as the Houston Astros that we’re going to bet on ourselves. Internally, we believe that we’re better at developing talent and creating our own culture and our own team, rather than going out and grabbing guys from other places.
“I’m not saying we won’t cash some of those chips in, but the great thing is we’re playing from a position of power now because we’re winning, we have all the prospects stacked up in the minor leagues, and we’re able to look at other teams that are rebuilding and make decisions that can benefit us for the long run,” Ryan added.
Of course, the rebuild paid off in a big way in 2017, as Houston finally won its first-ever World Series after coming so close in different seasons over the years. As someone who grew up in the area rooting for the Astros, the championship was an especially special accomplishment for Ryan.
“Winning the World Series was an incredible, incredible feeling,” Ryan said. “It was a dream come true.”
Ryan talked about the bitter taste left when the Astros were unable to repeat as champions last season, and how star third baseman Alex Bregman’s comments immediately after the Boston Red Sox eliminated the Astros from the American League Championship Series inspired this season’s motto of “take it back.” Ryan also discussed the transactions the team had to make in the offseason to maintain a championship-caliber roster.
“We know we’re good, and we know our time is now,” Ryan said.