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Heart of the matter

Ryan armed with new outlook after surgery

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Posted: Friday May 26, 2000 04:54 PM

  With a new lease on life Nolan Ryan has decided reprioritize his life. John Swart/Allsport

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- The pain in his chest was so strong, so overbearing that he had to lie down. Right there, on the field of a minor league baseball stadium.

Nolan Ryan thought he might be dying.

"That is one of those times that you don't know if it is your time or not," he said. "That's where you find the strength in your faith. I thought I was going to die out there laying on that ground."

The 53-year-old strikeout king on Friday made one of his first public appearances since emergency double bypass heart surgery April 23. Ryan was at The Ballpark in Arlington, posing for pictures and speaking with more than 40 people taking part in a Texas Rangers fantasy camp.

The Hall of Famer said he felt good, and certainly appeared that way. Ryan, who looks as if he could still go to the mound and add to his 5,714 career strikeouts and seven no-hitters, said his recovery is going well.

"It's an adjustment the first couple of weeks not being able to do much. The last two weeks I've gotten a lot better. I'm driving myself now and up to walking 40, 50 minutes a day," Ryan said. "I'm kind of making some steps in the right direction."

His doctors, while pleased with his recovery, say he needs another month or so before resuming full activity. The ballpark appearance fulfilled a commitment made long before his unexpected surgery.

Ryan, a popular figure almost always in demand, said the surgery has changed his perspective on life a bit.

"You realize how fragile life is and you reach a point where you start realizing maybe you ought to enjoy some of the things that you have accomplished," Ryan said.

He plans to cut back on travel and personal appearances, but he will make few changes in his family life and business ventures -- a bank, a ranch and a minor league team in which he is part-owner. None requires his daily attention, allowing him to set his own schedule.

"You get involved in all of your activities and the demands on your time and trying to accommodate as many people as you can," he said. "When something like this happens, all of a sudden, you step back and say maybe you need to reassess what you are doing."

Ryan had shown no signs of health problems until April 23. He began feeling sick while walking around the Dell Diamond, the new home of his team in Round Rock.

He didn't have a heart attack, but doctors found severe blockage in his left coronary artery, which supplies 75 percent of the blood to the heart. Surgery was performed within hours.

Other than a family history of heart problems, Ryan said there is still no real explanation for that blockage, the only one doctors found in his heart.

Ryan retired from baseball in 1993. He seemed in excellent health, with no problems during annual checkups the past 10 years. He has always eaten right and continued to exercise since retiring.

His wife, Ruth, said she doesn't know anything more her husband could have done the past decade to prevent what happened. But she has seen some good since the initial shock.

"He has a very improved type of attitude about things, as far as he doesn't get excited and he doesn't put pressure on himself to get things done," said Ruth Ryan, who next month celebrates her 33rd wedding anniversary with her husband.

"He just enjoys going to the games in Round Rock and being with our grandson and our kids. I love that. It has sort of forced us to sit back and relax a little bit, and that's been nice."

Related information
'Ryan Express' heads for Cooperstown
Ryan recovering from bypass surgery
Grateful Nolan Ryan released from hospital
Nolan Ryan's All-Time Stats
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