PHILADELPHIA -- It takes a special circumstance for Nolan Ryan to attend a National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and Sunday certainly qualifies. Ryan will travel to Cooperstown, N.Y., on Friday to watch his former Rangers teammate Ivan Rodriguez and Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell get inducted on Sunday.
Ryan left the Astros for the Rangers in 1989 at 42 years old, and he played his final five seasons in Arlington, where he helped break in a young catcher with a cannon arm in Rodriguez. Ryan watched Bagwell's entire career with the Astros, the team with which Ryan spent nine of his 27 playing years and with which he now works in the front office in an advisory role.
Bagwell and Rodriguez will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday -- and you can watch live on MLB Network and MLB.com starting at 10 a.m. CT.
:: 2017 Hall of Fame induction coverage ::
"I want to be there and be supportive of them," said Ryan, who was inducted in 1998 and last attended the enshrinement ceremony in 2015 for Craig Biggio. "The fact I kind of had a front-row seat for both of them will make it even more enjoyable and more of a reason to be there."
Rodriguez broke into the big leagues in 1991, at age 19, and he was behind the plate for Ryan for 46 games, the sixth most of any backstop that worked with Ryan. Rodriguez wound up catching more games than any of player in Major League history -- a record he set while playing for the Astros in Arlington against the Rangers in 2009 -- and earned a record 13 Gold Glove Awards.
"He was 19 years old when he came up, and if you would told have me he's a future Hall of Famer, I would have said, 'Well, I don't know about that,'" Ryan said. "I remember seeing Robin Yount and George Brett as rookies, and it never crossed my mind at that point in time in their career. Whether it's Jeff or Pudge, when you first see them and observe them, it doesn't cross your mind like it does when you see somebody like Cesar Cedeno or somebody that's really gifted like George Springer."
Rodriguez's second career game came in a Ryan start on June 21, 1991, against the White Sox in Chicago. Ryan struck out five batters in five innings and took a no-decision that day. Hall of Famers Frank Thomas and Carlton Fisk played for the White Sox in that game.
Ryan had a great appreciation for the way Bagwell played the game. The 1991 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner and '94 NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, Bagwell hit .297 with 2,314 hits, 449 homers, 1,529 RBIs, 1,517 runs scored and a .408 on-base percentage in 15 seasons with Houston (1991-2005).
"He dedicated himself to be the best player he could possibly be," Ryan said. "You never knew if he was in a real hot streak or in a slump by the way he approached his job."
MLB Network's exclusive live coverage of the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony -- simulcast live on MLB.com -- begins with MLB Tonight Sunday at 11 a.m. CT, followed by the ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Prior to Sunday's live coverage, MLB Network will televise the 2017 Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at 10 a.m., featuring Rachel Robinson (Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award), Claire Smith (the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers), and the posthumous honoring of Bill King (Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters). The presentation will also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the film "A League of Their Own."