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SABR 44 Day 1: Baseball, Houston, and Clemens

The first day of SABR 44 in Houston, Texas, has come to an end, and already the conference is proving to be another great baseball experience.

The day began with the annual meeting, where Marc Appleman and Vince Gennaro spoke about the changes in SABR since SABR 43 last summer in Philadelphia. One of the biggest is the number of kids and younger members joining the organization. There was also lots of buzz around the room due to the Red Sox acquisition of slugger Yoenis Cespedes from the Athletics in exchange for lefty ace Jon Lester.

Reid Ryan, son of MLB legend Nolan Ryan and President of Business Operations for the Houston Astros, was the first speaker of the day. Ryan said he sees the chapters of his life played out through the baseball experience and shared some stories about growing up with a father who was an MLB player.

Believe it or not, his dad didn’t even have a pitching coach until he made the big leagues with the Mets. He also said that for the Ryan family, Nolan’s five years on the Texas Rangers to finish up his career were the “icing on the cake.”

“The lessons you learn from sports carry on to life more than anything else,” Ryan added. One lesson he learned from his dad was “Never let the failure of your last pitch affect the success of your next one.” Or, to put it another way, “You can’t let the past overtake the future.

I caught up with the younger Ryan afterwards and got to ask him about growing up in the home of a baseball legend:

The next panel I attended included players from the Houston Colt .45s, the first professional baseball team to play in Houston. The panel was moderated by Greg Lucas, who was on the Astros broadcasting team from 1995 until 2012. He spoke with Mickey Herskowitz, who covered the team as a sportswriter, and former players Bob Aspromonte, Hal Smith, Jimmy Wynn, and Carl Warwick. They talked about playing in the Houston heat and the mosquitoes at Colt Stadium.

Aspromonte shared a touching story about a young sick young boy named Billy Hill.  Every time Aspromonte saw Hill, the boy would ask him to hit a home run for him. Aspromonte always said that he wasn’t much of a power hitter, but each time Aspromonte came through with a grand slam. Two years later, Hill threw a no-hitter in one of his games and said that it was for Bob.

The final event of the day (for me, anyway) featured what was widely considered to be the best panelist: Roger “The Rocket” Clemens. Clemens, college coach Jim Gilligan, and others spoke about college baseball today. Clemens joked that from the perspective of a pitcher, he loves the idea of changing the equipment in college ball because it is decreasing the amount of home runs. He also shared a story about one of his sons being in a slump. Clemens was chatting on the phone with him in the clubhouse, and Derek Jeter took the phone from him and told Clemens’ son that he, Jeter, was in a 1-32 slump, so he knew what it was like.

After the panel, I asked Clemens about tips his favorite big league memory:

All in all, the first day of SABR 44 in Houston was a great deal of fun. I can’t wait to see what’s in store tomorrow!

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Max Mannis is a special correspondent for and a member of SABR. Catch his posts on advanced baseball statistics. To learn more about SABR and to join, visit