Oregon native Brian Bruney was very young when his uncle Mike first started taking him to the Kingdome in Seattle to watch Mariners games. His uncle lived in Portland and together they'd make the three hour trek north to watch Mariners games during the late 80's and early 90's.
"I used to kid Alex [Rodriguez] in New York that when I was kid going to Mariners games, he'd never give me an autograph," Bruney said.
Though he couldn't remember the specific opponent of that first game, Bruney guessed it to be Texas or Kansas City. Bruney was a big Bo Jackson fan, so he followed the Royals and Bruney's cousin was a pitcher for the Rangers. The family would often gather after those Rangers games in Seattle to wait for him. As a result, one of Brian's first vivid memories of baseball is pretty special.
"Nolan [Ryan] would walk right by me and they'd always be like, 'go talk to him.' But I was little," Bruney recalled. "I was always too nervous as a kid to talk to him."
To this day, Bruney has yet to talk to Nolan Ryan or to get his autograph, though he's purchased quite a few. As a kid, he collected autographs from the entire Rangers team, but never managed to get Ryan's.
"[Ask] every other pitcher. Their idol was Nolan Ryan I'm sure," Bruney said. "I wouldn't say that it was a special thing. Everybody was a huge Nolan Ryan fan."
Still, most aspiring pitchers do not have the opportunity to watch the larger than life Ryan walk right past them as a child in the tunnels under the Kingdome. That experience, and watching Mariners games with his uncle Mike, left quite the impression on Bruney at a very early age.
"As soon as I could read, I was reading box scores. I knew from that age that I was going to play baseball," Bruney said.