The Chairman worked with Nolan Ryan’s Foundation to come to Alvin, Big Tex’s quiet hometown 40 minutes south of Houston. We raised money for the town’s community center and were rewarded with the club’s name on the dedication plaque. We had hoped Nolan would stop by to meet the guys. He ended up sitting down in the metal bleachers at the high school ball field and staying for nearly three hours. After watching for a while, he turned to the Chairman and said, "I wish I could do that."
"Play ball for fun with my friends."
What wasn't fun was our uniforms, a heavy mesh that caused half the guys nipple bleeds.
This also began a No Bats tradition of gifting our hosts something special. Reid Ryan, Nolan's son, suggested a .410 shotgun. The Chairman drove three hours to Cabela's in Sidney, Nebraska and hand-selected the stock. We had a jeweler engrave in gold Nolan’s name and major career pitching stats. Prior to the presentation, the club schemed to have everyone hit the deck when Scott Dow yelled “Shotgun!” the moment Nolan freed the gun from its case. Big Tex looked around in amusement: 50 guys were prone on the grass, hands over head. Nolan was the only one standing.
We asked Big Tex to give his truck to our tournament MVP, an offer he declined. A few minutes after Nolan finally departed, Scott Doney was racing around third base and launched into his famous "lawn dart" slide. Hoping to impress Nolan with his hustle, Doney soared high in the air and landed like, well, a lawn dart, five feet short of home plate.
Another special guest that season was Sasha Muratov, the heart and soul of youth baseball in Moscow, Russia. Sasha traveled all that way just to meet one of his heroes, Nolan Ryan.