While Nolan took the mound, Ruth Ryan covered home

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by GLORIA CAMPOS

WFAA

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 7:48 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 5 at 9:01 AM

ARLINGTON, Texas - Ruth Holdorff was 18 years old when she married 20-year-old Nolan Ryan in 1967, but it was a love affair that began way before that.

"We were very much in love when I was 14 years old, so we have been together a long time," Ruth said. "But I'm glad that I love baseball!"

It was a love of baseball that first drew the two together.

"I watched Nolan play when he was in little league," Ruth said. "I used to go and watch him with my sister and I used to want to play myself, but that's before girls were allowed."

Later, Ruth was the catch, and the catcher.

"Of course, he wasn't throwing the ball 100 miles an hour, but we did play catch a lot, especially before spring training," Ruth Ryan said.

Those games of catch soon involved the Ryan children - Reid, Reese and Wendy.

However it was Ruth, not Nolan, coaching the kids. She would shag fly balls for the kids in the yard.

"I was so busy trying to make it to three [kids'] practices to three [kids'] games every week, and at night, go to the Astros games," Ruth said. "I didn't get much sleep in those days, that's what I remember most."

Tuesday, Ruth Ryan will be honored with a motherhood lifetime achievement award, benefiting students at the Dallas Can! Academies.

Ryan knows some of the challenges facing the students at the Dallas Can! Academies. Many are teenage, single parents. She was home alone a lot when Nolan was on the road.

And when her son, Reid, was hit by a car, the family was in California and Nolan was in Boston for a game.

"I remember the day vividly, it was May 9," Ruth said. "He lost two organs -- his kidney, his spleen. [...] I tried to call the stadium and they wouldn't let me through. When I finally got him on the phone, I just broke down... It was pretty hard."

It was also hard when the boys started struggling at school.

"At one point, one of my sons just refused to go to school," Ruth said. "He said, 'I'm going to runaway from home.' I said, 'Oh no, I have to figure out what's wrong here.'"

Through research and testing, Ruth found the boys had dyslexia -- a challenge Nolan faced as a boy, too.

Ruth said being a grandmother is a lot easier. She and Nolan have seven grandchildren.

The eldest sometimes travels with Ruth and Nolan on road trips. After all, baseball is the Ryan family business.

"I was happy just to do the sports thing," Ruth said with a smile.

She said she didn't realize how much Nolan missed baseball until he joined the Rangers ownership team.

Now, it's living again with that little baseball schedule taped to the refrigerator. And she wouldn't have it any other way.

E-mail gcampos@wfaa.com

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