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Ryan's hiring is a home run for Astros

Son of Hall of Famer brings experience, credibility to role as team president

Reid Ryan's hiring as team president is a stroke of genius by Astros owner Jim Crane. It makes sense on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to start.

OK, here's one. He's qualified.

He has been in charge of two of the best-run teams in the Minor Leagues. The Round Rock Express and Corpus Christi Hooks have excelled at customer service and the overall fan experience. Both teams played in state-of-the-art ballparks that Reid and his father, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, and brother, Reese Ryan, helped design.

Second, there's the personality. Reid Ryan has plenty of his dad's charm and people skills. Like his father, he's virtually almost impossible to dislike. To spend 10 minutes with him is to be convinced those are the most important 10 minutes of his day.

That said, he's more than the son of a famous man. His work with the two Minor League teams also allowed him to establish an identity -- and a respect within the industry -- apart from his dad. Friday's announcement will be an incomprehensibly proud moment for Nolan and Ruth Ryan, but Reid is his own man.

Those who've worked for him, or with him, hold him in high regard, both in terms of competence and decency. He will bring a sense of stability and calm to a front office battered by turnover and uncertainty.

His presence will open the door for former Astros greats Larry Dierker and Jeff Bagwell to return to the franchise. Both men felt unwanted or unappreciated under former team president George Postolos.

This isn't about the baseball operation. General manager Jeff Luhnow has constructed a first-rate baseball operation, and there's already significant progress in bringing talent into the Minor League system.

Nevertheless, Ryan will bring credibility to that side of the building as well. Again, though, that's not where the franchise needs help. The Astros have embarked on a path of building methodically, one brick at a time. They believe that once they're good again -- whether that's two years or three or whatever -- they'll be good for the long run.

Ryan's to-do list is long and daunting, beginning with the fact that Astros games are on television in just 40 percent of the local market. Likewise, their games were switched to a radio station with a weaker night signal.

In this most basic part of running a sports franchise, that is, delivering the product into homes, the new team president will have his first challenge laid out for him.

Even though the Astros are averaging fewer than 20,000 fans per game, customers have complained of tighter policies on group tickets and concession stands running out of food in the middle innings.

Attendance will be a challenge until the team shows signs of turning the corner, and Luhnow is hopeful that by the end of this season he can begin to identify a core of players to build around.

Some of those players -- outfielder George Springer, first baseman Jonathan Singleton, right-hander Michael Foltynewicz and others -- could be in the Major Leagues by the end of this season.

In the short term, Ryan's challenge will be in fixing the things that can be fixed and communicating a more vibrant message of optimism and competence.

When he's introduced Friday afternoon, he'll tell of growing up with the Astros, how they were always HIS team and how special it is to be back in the place his family will always consider home.

Ryan was 7 when his father signed on to pitch for the Astros -- a short drive from his hometown of Alvin -- and to the dozens of players, coaches, clubhouse attendance and front-office employees, he was one of their sons, too.

Most of those people are gone now, but Ryan's presence will mean something to the people who care about this baseball team. They will feel comfortable having him back to oversee the reconstruction of the Astros and see it as a natural transition.

His dad is committed to the Texas Rangers, at least for now. He'd apparently hoped to turn that franchise over to his son. But Reid's hiring by the Astros will spark speculation that Nolan eventually will return, too.

That's a natural -- and legitimate -- topic. On Friday, though, it's about Reid Ryan, about his life in baseball, his credibility and his vision for the Astros. For a franchise fighting for every scrap of good news, it's a day to celebrate.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.
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