Reid Ryan’s appointment as President of the Houston Astros organization this week means he’ll have to be careful about swapping baseball insights and information with his father, Nolan, who is currently CEO of the Texas Rangers. Since they are now opponents in the American League West Division, you can bet they’ll be guarded about the baseball operations of their respective teams.
This unfamiliar situation represents another “first” for family relationships in Major League Baseball. While there have been numerous father-son combinations of executives in baseball history, there has never been a duo who was active for opposing teams at the same time.
Reid is certainly no newcomer on the baseball landscape. A former 17th round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 1994, his professional playing career was short. A standout pitcher at Texas Christian University, his was a case of not being able to fill the shoes of his fireballing father into the big leagues. However, he found his calling in baseball ownership and operations, when he helped form Ryan-Sanders Baseball in 1998, which now owns the minor league franchise of Round Rock (Triple-A, Rangers affiliation) and Corpus Christi (Double-A, Astros affiliation). Both franchises have been highly successful under Reid’s leadership as President and CEO.
Houston Astros owner, Jim Crane, selected 41-year-old Reid to replace George Postolos who resigned from the Astros. Reid will have the daunting task to produce a huge turnaround with the Astros. Currently in last place in the American League West Division, on a pace to win only 45-50 games this year, Reid will have to use all of his skillsets to lead the change into a contending team. Prior to Reid’s appointment, Houston had been following a track to re-build the organization through personnel development within the organization. Having the first overall draft picks last year and again this year should help that. It will be interesting to see if Reid affects this strategy. Furthermore, with a losing club for the past several years using a cast of “no-name” players, the Astros’ home attendance has dwindled, and it will be another huge task to win back disillusioned fans.
In March, the elder Ryan lost his title as President of the Texas Rangers to Jon Daniels, but retained his role as CEO. It prompted speculation that Nolan was possibly on his way out of the Rangers organization. However, in mid-April, the Rangers re-affirmed his CEO role as a vital part of the management team to produce another pennant for the Rangers. Now, with Reid’s new position with the Astros, there has been further chatter that Nolan may return to his old stomping grounds with the Astros in some advisory role that will support his son. However, for the moment, they will have to be bitter rivals.
There have been other father-son duos in baseball executive roles at the same time, but they both worked in the same organization. Some of these include: Buzzie and Peter Bavasi; Bob Carpenter, Jr. and Bob Carpenter, III; and Larry and Lee MacPhail. The closest situation to the Ryans’ involved Tal and Randy Smith, who were active in key front office positions at the same time (President of the Houston Astros and General Manager of the Detroit Tigers, respectively), but they weren’t working for opposing teams in the same league.
My book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, has an extensive chapter devoted to family relationships in the owner/executive ranks of Major League Baseball.