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In Print: On News Stands Now


by Tumbleweed Smith

When I got to Gail, the county seat of Borden County, I saw a fleet of law enforcement vehicles and a cadre of uniformed lawmen, all gathered in the small town to provide security for the arrival of some important guests. I stopped at the courthouse to visit with County Judge Ross Sharp and he was as excited as the other residents of the county (population 641). He told me that Nolan Ryan was coming to Gail to throw out the first pitch to dedicate the school district's brand new baseball field. Just building the field was a big deal in itself, since Borden County High School had previously had to play its baseball games out of town. The mascot of the school is a Coyote, pronounced kai-oat, not kai-oatey. If you pronounce it the wrong way, Borden County people are going to think less of you.

As students and others filled the bleachers in the new stadium, a pickup drove up and out stepped Nolan Ryan, Rangers left outfielder David Murphy and Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddox. They were greeted by school officials, then entered the playing field to an enthusiastic chorus of screams and applause. Nolan walked to the pitcher's mound and joined some pitchers on the Coyote baseball team. They all threw baseballs toward home plate simultaneously. I asked Nolan Ryan how it felt to pitch a baseball and he replied, "Strange." During his 27 year playing career he threw nearly 6,000 strikeouts.

An elementary school teacher, Sue Jane Mayes told me how the event came about. "In 2010 my sixth graders were working on letter-writing. It's a lost art, you know. We wrote letters to Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers to congratulate them on being in the World Series. We wanted to say thank you for a great season. We sent along a photo of the class all wearing Ranger t-shirts and caps. I think he was very touched and said he would come to Gail. And here we are two years later and he's here. We could say all this began with a letter. I really want the kids to make a memory today. But this just isn't for the school. It's for the whole county."

The Rangers have a pre-season public relations program called a Caravan in which members of the team visit towns to get fans excited about the upcoming games. Not many get Nolan Ryan, the owner, president and CEO of the Rangers. "It's always good to come out and be in an environment like this and say thank you to the people who make the effort to come to our ball games," he said. "Dedicating the new field was real special. That shows a big commitment on the part of the students, coaches and school administrators." Coyote baseball coach Trey Richey said, " To be able to stand next to Nolan Ryan is a genuine honor."

From the baseball field everyone adjourned to the school auditorium where the trio of Rangers received proclamations and the key to the county. Then Nolan Ryan made a presentation of his own to Bertie Copeland, owner of The Coyote Country Store, the only place in Gail where you can buy a meal. She had told someone she wanted a picture of Nolan Ryan. Nolan gave her a Rangers jersey. "We're gonna have it framed and hang it on the wall," Bertie told me.

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