GUTHRIE, Okla.- The Oklahoma Sports Museum recently held a silent auction featuring sports players signing autographs. Two of those players were former Major League Baseball (MLB) players Mark and Rusty Ryal. They are the first, and only Mvskoke father and son duo to play in the MLB.
Director of the Oklahoma Sports Museum Richard Hendricks has been serving the museum for 29 years. He helped host the sports collectible and memorabilia sidewalk sale in addition to the silent collection. The museum is a non-profit. The purpose of the silent auction was to raise money to pay for general expenses.
The event featured a meet and greet, an autograph signing, T-shirts, posters, sports cards, books and other sports items for sale.
Part of the museum is dedicated toward honoring Native American athletes across different sports. These include athletes like Andy Payne (Cherokee), winner of the 1928 Transcontinental Footrace, Allie Reynolds (Mvskoke) who played in the MLB, Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox), the first Native American to win a gold medal in the Olympics, and Cynthia Yerby (Seminole), who was a world champion arm wrestler.
Other sports represented in the museum included the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), and pro rodeo.
“We are proud of our Native American heritage in Oklahoma and we try to acknowledge as many athletes as we can,” Hendricks said.
Parts of the museum’s collections came from families and individuals like Mark Ryal, who donated his Philadelphia Phillies jersey. Hendricks was a former coach himself, as well as a teacher and principal. Throughout his coaching career he came to know Native American players in the MLB like Johnny Bench (Choctaw) and Allie Reynolds. Through Hendricks the museum received items from the families of these players.
The idea of dedicating a wing of the museum started when Hendricks attended an assembly at Guthrie Junior High. The assembly encouraged children to make drug-free choices and brought in two speakers, former MLB player Ferguson Jenkins and former NBA player Alonzo Gee.
“This museum is important to me and I’ve spent 29 years of my life doing it in honor of Oklahoma athletes and the user influence in a positive way for kids,” Hendricks said.
Mark and Rusty Ryal’s MLB experience
Mark Ryal signed on to play professional baseball while in high school in Dewar, Oklahoma. He played in the MLB for 16 years. He signed on as an outfielder, but also played infield as well. He retired in 1994. Mark Ryal came back to his home state to coach at Auburn High School and Oklahoma State University. Currently he spends a lot of his time giving private hitting and pitching lessons.
Rusty Ryal was drafted to play baseball in 2005 by Oklahoma State University. He went on to play for the Arizona Diamondbacks, then played for Japan for a year. After that he came back to the United States to play three more years. He was a super utility player, meaning that he was able to play multiple positions. Throughout the years he played infield, outfield, and backup catcher. Later on he eventually retired. Currently he coaches amateur baseball.
According to Rusty Ryal, there is about to be another father and son duo from Oklahoma to both play in the major leagues. However, the Ryals are still the first, and only Mvskoke father and son duo to play in the league.
“It’s an honor, it goes to speak a lot about our work ethic and dedication as far as getting into the big league level and to get drafted, it’s definitely special. It’s good to see other father and son duos do it, as well being from Oklahoma to show that there is good baseball here,” Rusty Ryal said.
Mark Ryal explained that when he was playing in the MLB, it was every boy’s dream to play in it. Although he witnessed a lot of competition at a high level throughout his career, he still remembers his experience fondly. “It’s a grind coming up from the minor leagues, but you get there and you stay there for a little while and it’s worth the reward,” Mark Ryal said.
Rusty Ryal still shares the same love for America’s National Pastime. Echoing his father, he knows there needs to be a lot of work and sacrifice put into playing the game. In order to be successful in the major leagues, Rusty Ryal committed to focus and discipline throughout his career. From his point of view, he stated it is important to be goal oriented, but have fun at the same time.
Rusty Ryal mentioned that playing on a team comes with the challenge of working individually as a player. This involves personal responsibility and accountability on the diamond.
“You can get lost in individualism and understand that each player has a role and its kind of quite more lead by example, than lead verbally. But as far as that team aspect for me, it is having respect for one another on each team, knowing their job is just as hard as other jobs and even though you may perform better than others, and others may perform better than you, you still have a role to play,” Rusty said.
The Ryals recognize that their career has seen obstacles that other players have not had to face.
“It’s an honor to be in my standpoint especially in our family to be Native American and hopefully throwing that out that some of the Native American kids to know that we both come from small schools and it’s possible. Just keep working at it and get your education. We recognize and represent the Native Americans society and my family, so it’s an honor,” Mark Ryal said. “I used to come home in the fall and play fast-pitch softball with a lot of the Native teams and played in some tournaments with some Native guys and got to meet a lot of people throughout that. It was a good experience for me.”
Mark Ryal expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to sign on to play professionally straight out of high school. He also expressed pride for the opportunity to represent his hometown. Traveling to countries around the world like Japan, Canada and Puerto Rico was a rewarding experience for him. Likewise, he even played in the same stadiums where Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle made history.
“You’re playing with guys like Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Reggie Jackson. I can go on and on, just the information that they passed on down to you it’s replaceable and we’re both just passing it to the younger generation here,” Mark Ryal said.
For Rusty Ryal, he enjoyed playing in Arizona at his home stadium. During his time there, he was treated well by the staff and loved building relationships with the people he met. The experience of traveling was surreal because he always dreamed of walking out on those professional league fields as a kid.
As the father of an MLB player, and a former MLB player himself, Mark Ryal’s pride for the sport could only be matched by pride for his son.
For further information about the Oklahoma Sports Museum in Guthrie, contact Richard Hendricks at 405-414-1342, or send an email to Oklasportsmuseum@spc.global.net.