Eovaldi meets hometown legend Ryan
Yankees righty went to same high school as all-time strikeout leader
HOUSTON -- Nathan Eovaldi beamed as he shook hands with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan on Saturday afternoon, finally scoring a long-awaited meeting with his hometown hero. The Yankees right-hander must have been thrilled to learn that he can count the all-time strikeout leader among his fan club.
Ryan, the most famous product of nearby Alvin, Texas, now serves as a special advisor to Astros owner Jim Crane. He had front-row seats to watch Eovaldi's six-inning performance in a 3-2 win against the Astros on Friday and made his way to the Yanks' dugout on Saturday to congratulate his fellow Alvin High alum.
"It's fun to watch his career," Ryan said. "I've followed him ever since he was in high school. When the Dodgers signed him, Charlie Hough was over there and he's a friend of mine. I have a lot of respect for Charlie and his eye, so I asked Charlie about him and he said he really liked him. He thought he had a lot of potential, so that made me feel good. I've just followed him ever since."
Ryan complimented the Yankees' decision to acquire the hard-throwing Eovaldi, who came to New York from the Marlins in a Dec. 19 trade with infielder/outfielder Garrett Jones and Minor League right-hander Domingo German for right-hander David Phelps, infielder Martin Prado and cash considerations.
"I thought he pitched a really good game last night," Ryan said. "I think that he probably has one of the better arms in baseball. I think he knows how to pitch and he has a good idea of what he's trying to do. I think the Yankees made themselves a good deal."
Eovaldi, who is 7-2 with a 4.81 ERA in 15 starts, said after Friday's game that Ryan was a larger-than-life figure in his hometown, where photos and autographs chronicle the hurler's 27-year Major League career on the walls of many eateries and other establishments.
"Growing up for me, I connected to baseball with him," Eovaldi said. "In our town, it was Nolan Ryan everything. You'd go to any restaurant and his memorabilia and everything was there."
Ryan said that he believes Eovaldi is doing a good job of making the adjustments that young pitchers must, but said he did not offer any advice during their chat on Saturday.
"You don't get a quick view like I got last night and have advice for people," Ryan said. "I was impressed with his approach last night and the way he handled things. If you think about how the Astros scored off of him, some jam-jobbers, I thought he handled that well. I was impressed with him."