When fans stroll into Dell Diamond next season, they’ll be greeted by an 8-foot statue of Texas baseball legend Nolan Ryan.
The statue was unveiled Tuesday in a ceremony at the ballpark, where the Ryan family also revealed that the Nolan Ryan Foundation, along with the statue, is moving from the family’s home town of Alvin to Round Rock.
The 800-pound bronze image of Ryan casts him in his No. 34 Rangers uniform, appropriate because the Express are Texas’ Triple-A affiliate and Ryan’s youngest son Reese runs the franchise.
But the Houston Astros are the Hall of Famer’s current employer — he’s an executive advisor and eldest son Reid, who founded the Express, is the team president — and the ‘Stros finished 11 games behind the division-champion Rangers.
“It’s going to be an important offseason,” Ryan said. “They have the nucleus of a good club, but I’m sure (general manager) Jeff (Luhnow) will be involved in the free-agent market and maybe even trades.”
The Astros were 15th in scoring and 11th in ERA and runs allowed. Ryan indicated he’d prefer more pitching.
“The way their starters went down with injuries, it makes you feel like you never have enough starting pitching,” he said. “Or you could beef up the bullpen, especially the way the game is played now.
“Look at this World Series between Cleveland and Chicago. Pitching is so crucial. That’s how these teams got there.”
The Cubs led the major leagues in ERA, and the Indians allowed the second-fewest runs in the American League.
Ryan played a role in the Astros drafting power pitcher Forrest Whitley with their first pick this past June. He scouted the 6-foot-7-inch San Antonio Alamo Heights star’s arm in a playoff win over McCallum.
“I liked him a lot,” Ryan said. “I enjoyed the experience. What it does, though, is make you realize the challenges amateur scouts face because they have to project high school kids playing against high school talent and figure out what the long-term upside is. I can appreciate the job they do.”
The 69-year-old Georgetown resident is pleased to bring his charitable foundation to Round Rock, though it will retain a presence in Alvin with the Nolan Ryan Center, which funds the local YMCA, among other things. The foundation’s mission is to support youth, education and community development.
“We’ve helped kids get scholarships who otherwise couldn’t afford college,” he said. “Partnering with the Express will give us some unique opportunities in Central Texas, and it makes sense because I live here and can spend more time on it. Plus, the Express have been such a big part of my family’s life.
“We moved a baseball exhibit from Alvin to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco because it gets 15,000-20,000 visitors a year compared to around 1,500 in Alvin. We’ll have more visibility in Round Rock than Alvin and hopefully can do more things to help area youth.”