The Nolan Ryan Elite Pitching Camp began on Monday, along with the Jeff Bagwell Elite Hitting Camp, which invited the organization's top prospects for a week of workouts under the tutelage of some of the biggest names to ever wear an Astros uniform.
The headliner was Ryan, who was the first target of the media crush, partly because of his obvious resume and partly because of the ordeal he endured over the weekend. Ryan was treated for spasms that lead into the artery in his heart, a condition that began after he had double-bypass surgery in April 2000.
The spasms require medication, but considering it had been a few years since Ryan had a flare-up, he hadn't been taking the medication.
"What it indicates is that I'm probably going to have to stay on the medication," Ryan said.
The scary part is that when the artery spasms, "it has all of the symptoms of a heart attack," Ryan said. "You don't know if you're having a heart attack or if you're having a spasm. There's no way to distinguish it."
Ryan has had these spasms before, and they usually passed in a short period of time. This time, it passed, but it came back about 10 minutes later. That prompted him to get checked by his doctor and eventually go to the hospital in Round Rock on Friday afternoon. He was transferred to St. Luke's Hospital in Houston on Saturday and was released later that day.
"It takes two or three days to get over that, so I'm not physically going to do anything," Ryan said. "As far as how I feel, I feel fine."
From there, it was business as usual for the all-time strikeouts king, who -- along with Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Astros manager Phil Garner, general manager Tim Purpura and many members of the front office, coaching and scouting staffs -- interacted with the young prospects on the field at Minute Maid Park as a warmup to Spring Training.
The group consisted mostly of Minor Leaguers, but a few Major Leaguers were there as well. Brad Lidge, Chris Sampson, Chris Burke and Jason Lane are expected to attend the camp all week.
Also attending the camp are right-handers Lincoln Holdzkom, Matt Albers, Tip Fairchild, Casey Hudspeth, Brad James, Bud Norris, Sergio Perez and Chad Reineke, and left-handers Brian Bogusevic, Troy Patton and Chris Salamida.
Position players at the camp include infielders Koby Clemens, Brooks Conrad, Chris Johnson and Tommy Manzella; catchers Ralph Henriquez, Lou Santangelo, J.R. Towles and Max Sapp; and outfielders Josh Flores, Eli Iorg, Hunter Pence and Mike Rodriguez.
For most of the directors of the camp, it's an opportunity to get a first look at the organization's brightest talent.
"With a lot of them, I haven't seen them," said Ryan, who is majority owner of the club's Triple-A and Double-A affiliates in Round Rock and Corpus Christi, respectively. "A lot of kids we signed last year out of the amateur draft, so it's going to be the first opportunity for me to see them, see what type of arms they have and how their mechanics are.
"It gives me some idea of where I think they are in their development stage and then get familiar with them, so when I do go to Spring Training and see them, I have some visual picture of them."
The mini-camp gives the players a chance to become acclimated to a big-league ballpark and provides a crash course on dealing with the media and playing under the glare of a Major League spotlight.
And they're learning from a group that certainly has a wealth of experience in those areas.
"The little nuggets they get from Nolan or Roger or [director of pitching development] Dewey [Robinson] or Baggy," Purpura said. "Hopefully they'll be the seeds for something that will help them out down the line."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less