It's been 15 years since Nolan Ryan was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame along with George Brett and Robin Yount.
Ryan hasn't been back for an induction ceremony since.
He's headed to Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will air Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, simulcast on MLB.com and the At Bat app.
It is, he said, a trip long overdue.
"I've been back to Cooperstown quite a bit, but not on induction weekend," said Ryan. "With a deal I had with Southwest Airlines, I went back four or five Septembers in a row for a 'Play Ball with Nolan' promotion. We'd have dinner the night before in the Hall. And when I was president of the Rangers, we had an ownership meeting in Cooperstown."
The induction weekend, however, was a problem. Usually the last weekend of July means the non-waiver Trade Deadline is looming, if it doesn't actually fall on induction weekend, and Ryan did have a busy schedule in the aftermath of his retirement as a player.
Along with sons Reid, now the president of the Houston Astros, and Reese, the Ryans created two of the top Minor League franchises in the game, Triple-A Round Rock (Rangers) and Double-A Corpus Christi (Astros). They have been involved in the banking business. Ryan has continued to be active in the cattle business, even developing Nolan Ryan Natural Beef.
And he spent five years as the president of the Texas Rangers, helping orchestrate the sale of a franchise that was facing financial perils, and overseeing the Rangers advancing to the World Series for the first two times in their history. At the end of the 2013 season, however, he resigned after a restructuring of administrative duties by the Rangers.
So now the trip back for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies is easier to schedule.
"I'm not as tied down as I once was," he said.
Ryan most likely had the longest break between his induction and a return for the ceremonies, but it wasn't by desire. He did plan to attend the 2006 ceremony, in part because two media members he had been associated with were being honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and the Ford C. Frick Award.
However, his father-in-law was hospitalized right before the flight was scheduled to leave for the East Coast.
All signs are a go this year, though, where there is one of the most impressive induction groups in some time -- pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, slugger Frank Thomas, and managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa. Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel is this year's recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.
"I want to be supportive of Eric," said Ryan, who got to know Nadel well as both a pitcher for the Rangers and the team president.
There also is that lure of Cooperstown.
"It's always fun to go back there," Ryan said. "It is such a unique place. I enjoy going because I enjoy the history of the game. I love to browse through the Hall, look at the displays and exhibits. It helps me understand more history of the game, and to appreciate what people accomplished.
"One of the things I really enjoy is the theater. Watching the movie. It takes me back in time. It reminds you of your childhood and the interest you had in the game. The older I get, the more I have gotten into the business side of the game and player development, and visiting the Hall makes me more conscious of how blessed I was."
Ryan was no more blessed by baseball than the fans of the game were blessed by getting a chance to watch the hard-throwing right-hander in a 27-year career. While Ryan said he enjoys seeing the exhibits that highlight the accomplishments of other players, visitors to the Hall find plenty of exhibits that have a Ryan flair.
The oldest player in baseball in each of his last four seasons, Ryan, who retired following the 1993 season at the age of 46, has a list of Major League records that includes seven no-hitters, 5,714 strikeouts, 2,795 walks and 6.6 hits per nine innings. His 324 wins rank 14th all time, and his 773 starts are the second most in history. A 12th-round pick out of high school in 1965, he was an eight-time All-Star.
"When you are living in [the game] and experiencing it, your focus is on trying to accomplish something each time out," he said. "You don't reflect on things that have happened and appreciate them as much as you do later in life."
Those who watched him pitch, however, were impressed with the body of work. In his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, he was listed on 491 of 497 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
"I am not one who reflects much on what has happened, but I remember when I was voted into the Hall of Fame I thought about the players in that [plaque] room -- Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson -- and how I don't put myself in the same light as those greats."
The voters, however, did, and this year, Ryan gets to return and share that feeling of respect with the newest inductees.
It is something he has never been able to enjoy since he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
And it is something he hopes can now become a regular part of his annual schedule.