|Q&A with baseball’s Ruth Ryan
Author: Melanie Dunham
The Ryan family is known throughout the sports community as baseball royalty, from Nolan’s career with the Rangers to Reid’s new position at the helm of the Astros. Now meet Ruth Ryan, matriarch of the brood and a feminine force in professional baseball. This summer, Ruth’s “Baseball 101 for Ladies” united women with pro ball in a way many hadn’t experienced before, and further cemented the Ryans’ role in America’s favorite past time.
AF: How did the idea for Baseball 101 for Ladies come about?
RR: The idea for Baseball 101 for Ladies came about from Matt Kata and Chris Almendarez of the Round Rock Express. They wanted to give women a “behind the scenes” tour of Dell Diamond and also give them a chance to ask questions to a few women whose lives have been connected to baseball in some way. Wendy Abramson, who was employed by the Round Rock Express from its beginning in 2000 and is also the mother of a professional baseball player; Nicole Ryan, married to Reid Ryan, founder of the Round Rock Express and now president of the Houston Astros; and myself were the three panelists. Part of the proceeds from this event and the silent auction went to benefit Hope Alliance, a charitable organization in Williamson County that helps women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
AF: Why is it important for women to take an interest in sports?
RR: I have always thought it was important for women to take an interest in sports because it’s a great way to connect with husbands and children or other relatives or friends. Sharing a sport, whether it be watching on television or participating in person, is healthy and fun and a good diversion from jobs and stresses or everyday life.
AF: Do you feel watching and/or participating in athletic activities strengthens the family bond?
RR: I do most certainly feel that athletics strengthens the family bond. Ever since our children were very young we always included them in our activities. If Nolan was pitching in a professional game, I took the children with me whenever possible, and if they were playing youth sports, I tried to be there to watch or coach or work in a concession stand…or just to provide snacks after a game. Any activity that involves family togetherness is beneficial to children, whether it be sports, the arts, school projects, etc. If I were going to play tennis, the children could bring a racket and play alongside me or with me after my match. Nolan and I never pushed our children to participate in sports, but because they all liked it (maybe because we were always involved) we supported and encouraged them. If they had gravitated to other interests such as art or music or theatre, that would have been fine with us…the main objective was being involved in what they liked.
AF: How has your family become involved in sports over the years?
RR: Over the years our children have grown up in a baseball setting, and when Nolan would leave for spring training, we packed up and went with him whenever possible, sometimes setting up a makeshift classroom so they could keep up with their school work. The kids tried lots of sports including swimming, soccer, tennis, basketball, softball, baseball, karate, volleyball…and I always felt that these activities would keep their minds and bodies busy and hopefully keep them out of trouble.
For the most part, we were very lucky with that.
AF: How can professional sports organizations encourage girls to participate in athletics from an early age?
RR: Professional sports organizations can encourage girls to participate in athletics from an early age. I know that the Round Rock Express has put on softball camps for girls and brought in some professional women players to teach pitching and other skills. Most teams allow youth teams to go out onto the field with the players before the game. Some teams have overnight campouts in stadiums just for the fun of playing or watching a movie on the big screen. The Texas Rangers have a hands-on museum where kids can learn some of the mathematics related to baseball such as how to figure earned run averages, on-base percentages or batting averages.
AF: Do you feel encouraging girls in athletics promotes lifelong health benefits?
RR: For sure, encouraging girls in athletics promotes lifelong health benefits. It’s a fact that more women than men suffer from heart disease and strokes, and any physical exercise can help prevent that as well as help to prevent diabetes.
AF: What other family programs does the Round Rock Express promote?
RR: As far as other family programs that the Round Rock Express promotes, just coming out to the ballpark is promoting family. When Reid designed the stadium, his goal was to make it family-friendly and fun. There is a swimming pool, rock climbing wall, basketball and sport court, games to play, all at the stadium, and it’s affordable fun. Even families with very young children can sit out on the berm and watch the game while their kids run around and play.
AF: Is there anything you’d like to share with Austin Family readers?
RR: I think the most important thing that a mother or father can do for family is summed up in one word: time.
Spend time with your children; it
doesn’t matter what the activity is, stay interested and involved with your children. Material things are forgotten but love and attention from parents stays in one’s heart forever.