Tag Archives: Texas Rangers

Why do I love baseball?

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am one of the most loyal Texas Rangers fan there is out there. I mean, I was a fan before I was even a blip on the world’s radar way back in ’72 when my parents were just starting to date in college and the Rangers went 54-100 in their inaugural season! But in all seriousness, I have struggled through some painful below .500 seasons before reveling in the recent “glory days” that have turned the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex into just as much of a baseball town as it is a football town which, is a tall feat in a state where football reigns supreme. When I saw the above picture from the Rangers’ home field after a rain storm I was entranced. I can’t necessarily describe to you what I felt, but there was definitely something out of the ordinary going on. I love The Rangers because they have always been my home town team, but I simply LOVE the game of baseball. So, I asked myself… why do I love baseball so much? Why did this simple, yet beautiful, picture captivate me so much?

As I started jotting down thoughts on my love for this sport I had an enlightening revelation. All of the sudden I stopped to read what I had written and realized that I had over a page of notes. I didn’t even realize that I liked baseball that much! As a disclaimer to this post, I DO date a baseball player and a pitcher at that. For those of you who know how baseball players are, you know that pitchers are a breed of their own (god bless the pitcher girlfriends out there). Adam has certainly helped my love for the game flourish by explaining the intricacies of the game that a casual fan may not have the pleasure of understanding, but my baseball love had been growing long before I met my man who wears a glove, throws a ball 95 MPH and has a mean farmer’s tan. Anyways, back to my notes. My list continued to grow and my mind kept racing. So much so that I thought to myself “What the hell is going on? I need to put these feelings together into a somewhat organized piece.”

Not only is the game America’s Favorite Pastime, but for many families some of their fondest memories of being together is loading up the car and heading out to the baseball field. There is something about a father taking his son (or daughter, hello!) to his first baseball game and seeing his innocent eyes glimmer with anticipation. I remember going to a Rangers game with my dad and I was dying for a game-used Todd Zeile bat that they were selling at the gift shop. I silently pouted until the 7th inning when my dad finally gave me permission to go get it. I was ecstatic! For some reason that became a great ballpark memory that stuck with me (the bat is still in my room). My first experience at a park other than the Rangers’ field which, I had already visited several times, was also memorable. My family and I were in New York and went to a Yankees game at old Yankee Stadium when I was probably 8 or 9. It was an afternoon game in the middle of summer, blazing hot, and we happened to have seats right near the opposing team’s bullpen. When the Yanks’ starter began to tire in the summer heat several relievers started to loosen their arms and warm-up. Then, all hell broke loose. The hot, sweaty New Yorkers in the outfield seats that were bathed in sunlight were ruthless with their verbal attacks on the bullpen guys. I think that might have been my first time hearing an F-bomb, and let me tell you, I heard it A LOT. I’m still not sure that to this day I have heard such a filthy monologue… except maybe on a particularly intense episode of The Sopranos. But I LOVED IT! The intense competitive atmosphere was electric and I will never forget exploring the historic stadium with my parents. 

It’s a sport of power, finesse, and perfection. The backdrop of the game allows for social interaction with friends and family without deterring you from the action on the field. It is simple enough for young children to understand but complex enough to keep even the oldest of fans craving further understanding of the most minor details. There are so many games in a season that you know the players have to love the game. The outcome of the game legitimately cannot be determined until the final out is made. Both teams have an equal opportunity to score every game. It’s one of the only sports where the defense controls the game. You can be successful 3 out of 10 times and consider yourself on the positive side of the spectrum. Baseball is physically inviting to boys and men of all shapes and sizes; there is not a “dominant” body type like, perhaps, height in basketball. The constant mental battle between the pitcher and the batter; the pitcher trying to outsmart the batter and the batter trying to pick up on pitch sequences. The excitement of “free baseball.” The fact that there is no clock, you could be at the field for 2.5 hours or 6. Baseball players never really seem to grow up; they make fun of each other, make up secret handshakes, and create their own language, similar to small children at recess. The antics of a rain delay. The smell of the grass, hot dogs, and beer. The constant non-verbal communication happening on the field. The unselfishness of the game itself. Sacrificing your own at bat to move someone over or bring someone home from third base for the good of the team. The unspoken rules of baseball. If a pitcher hits a batter (not unintentionally), you had better expect that someone will have a ball up near their ear the next inning. The camaraderie of a team. OCTOBER. Your season hanging in the balance while a cool fall air whisks through the stadium. The equilibrium of the game. Ninety feet have always been 90 feet. Sixty feet have always been 60 feet. The tradition of the game that meshes generations. The ever-changing yet consistent nature of the game. I could go on forever, but you get the point. Plus, boys running around in baseball pants is never a bad thing! 

What I think baseball boils down to is its uncanny ability to mirror basic everyday life. One of my favorite aspects of the game that simulates life is that the main goal of baseball is always to come home. You methodically move around the diamond until you end up where you want to be, at home; if you don’t end up successful you know that you put in your best effort to get there. Isn’t that everybody’s goal at the end of the day, to come home? Home is a place of comfort, relaxation, and love which, are things that everyone strives for to some extent. The game is easily relatable to the daily back and forth, up and down, success and adversity… and you can experience that all in one game! You can fail miserably one day and be the hero the next day. Just like life, no matter what happened the day before you wake up the next day with an opportunity for redemption. You have to be able to accept that the past is the past and you need to be able to look forward with optimism. Slumps will happen, but you always have a chance to hit a game-winning grand slam the next day.

The baseball field has become a place of tranquility and friendship for me. A sacred place where I can set aside the rigors of young adulthood. A place where I can catch up with friends while enjoying a game that I love. A place where the whole world at that moment seems to hang on every pitch. There’s just nothing like it. I hope some of you feel the same way. And now I am going, going, gone…

Some of my favorite recent-ish baseball moments and a hysterical video of an extended collegiate rain delay:

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The Yankees? That Was SO Last Season. Hello, WORLD SERIES!

Dear Baseball Gods: Our Rangers, who art in Texas, winners be thy name. The Yanks will come; they will be done, in New York as they will in Texas. Give us this week a series win, and forgive us our bullpen loss as we provoke losses from their bullpen. Lead us not into offseason, but deliver us a World Series title.. For the Rangers are the swingdom, the claw, and the antlers, forever and ever. AMEN!

Ya’ll better believe it, baby! What an incredible night in the great state of Texas. After 39 inconsistent years in Texas, the Rangers- YES, the Texas Rangers- are going to the 2010 World Series for the first time in franchise history. Those 39 years of pain and frustration immediately disappeared when red, white, and blue confetti rained down over the baseball diamond Friday night. Before this season, the words “world” and “series” were not used together in a sentence and most certainly were not used in reference to the hometown baseball team. It’s gonna take a while for this to sink in for Ranger fans, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I mean, let’s face it the Cowboys unfortunately aren’t picking up anybody’s spirits lately… But the fun-loving, charismatic, charming Rangers have not only captured the sports-crazed hearts of Dallas, they have won over the hearts of major league baseball fans everywhere.

The Rangers scorched the defending champs 6-1 last night to clench the American League Pennant and punch their ticket to the “Big Show.” The fifth inning was arguably the most important inning of baseball the Rangers have ever played. In the blink of an eye, a nail-biter turned into a blowout. With Ranger first-baseman Mitch Moreland on third base, the Yanks made the decision to intentionally walk MVP candidate Josh Hamilton (for the second time-on the first Hamilton intentional walk, Yankees starter Phil Hughes sailed one over the glove of catcher Jorge Posada that allowed Moreland to advance to third. How do you let an intentional walk pitch get away from you?!), who has been nicknamed “The Natural” by the TBS commentators, to put runners on the corners and pitch to DH Vlad Guerrero. Baaaaad call, guys. Vlad spanked a double to left center field allowing Moreland and Hamilton to score. Yes, Hamilton scored from first. Antlers, anybody? Nellie Cruz tacked on a long dinger to left-center to make the lead 5-1 and send the fans into an absolute frenzy. All four runs were scored with two outs. And, the controversial 5th inning HBP/Wild Pitch call that allowed the Yanks to tie the score 1-1, didn’t even matter. By the way, the pitch absolutely hit Nick Swisher in the leg therefore deflecting the ball away from Ranger catcher Bengie Molina and allowing Alex Rodriguez to score. But again, not even a bad call could rattle the Rangers. And was that Cliff Lee on the mound or Colby Lewis? With seven strikeouts and a commanding fastball, Lewis only allowed three hits and never really let the Yankees threaten him or his ball club. Elvis Andrus may be the most under-appreciated Ranger of the 2010 post-season. He has hit safely in all 11 post-season games and has been tremendous in the field. Exhibit A: showing off his vertical jump and arm extension to snag a sharp A-Rod liner that could have easily sailed into center field during Game 6. The fresh faced Ranger closer, 22 year-old Neftali Feliz, came in and cooly finished off the game casually throwing 100mph pitches capped with an A-Rod stirkeout to finish the game. A better ending could not have been scripted. Over 50,000 Ranger fans screaming their lungs out, the baby closer on the mound, and the eternally HATED A-Rod at the plate. What made it even better is that he struck out looking. How appropriate. Sorry, A-Rod no heroics for you around here.. and nobody is shedding any tears for you, believe me.

Following that last out, the traditional victory antics ensued. With the crowd going crazy, fireworks shooting off high above the ballpark, and a giant dogpile of Ranger uniforms forming near the pitching mound, ALCS t-shirts and hats were immediately distributed to every member of the organization. The ginger ale bath on the field has become an endearing Ranger tradition honoring their superstar, Josh Hamilton, who was awarded the ALCS MVP award, deservedly so. In his acceptance speech, Hamilton gave credit to his teammates and in his post-game interview admitted to fighting back tears out in center field during A-Rod’s ninth inning at-bat. “I was trying to hold back the tears just in case he hit it to me,” Hamilton said. Michael Young, who has been a Ranger for ten years, happily told the crowd “The World Series is coming to Texas!” Manager Ron Washington had what looked like a permanent toothy grin pasted on his face while he thanked everyone, and I mean everyone. “The hot dog vendor and the parking attendant should feel like they’re a part of it,” Washington said. Everyone has a role and everyone embraces their role, that is what makes this team so versatile and therefore so successful. That’s the Ranger Way.

The Yankees? Psh. That was SO last season. The Yankee mystique and playoff magic that tried to creep into the minds of the Rangers during the Game 1 -8th inning meltdown was never a real factor in this series. The Rangers have started a new era and hey, maybe they created some October baseball magic of their own. I don’t care bout the 27 World Championships and the 40 trips to the World Series, throughout the serious there was no doubt who was the more dominant and cohesive team. Ranger victories came in the form of landslides: 7-2, 8-0, 10-3, and 6-1. Anyone wanna argue with me about who was the more commanding team? I didn’t think so. Even the Yanks’ game five victory didn’t pose a concern. Sorry New York, money can’t buy team chemistry. The Rangers looked like playoff veterans throughout this series and outperformed the Yankees in every aspect of the game. They had more hustle, more strength, more heart, and more love for each other, the game, and the experience. Magic shmagic. When asked about the usual Pinstripe Playoff Aura following the game, Ranger second baseman Ian Kinsler (who is absolutely precious, by the way) promptly responded: “We’re really going to talk about that? I don’t really care about the Yankees right now honestly. We just defeated them. It’s over. We’re better than them.” You tell ’em, Kins!

In a state where football is religion, “America’s favorite past-time” has emphatically replaced “America’s Team.” It seems like it was meant to be. Magic. Washington’s admittance of using cocaine once during the 2009 season could have sunk the Ranger submarine, but the organization stuck by him. When the Rangers acquired Cliff Lee back in July, the pieces started to fall more and more into place. “Dude, we got Cliff freakin’ Lee,” Michael Young said to Josh Hamilton. Finally, in August when Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg became the official owners of the ball club, things certainly seemed like they were meant to be. Who better to have at the helm than arguably the best Ranger that has ever taken the field? And now, the Rangers are going to the World Series. Ace Cliff Lee will take the mound next Wednesday against an ace from either the Phillies or the Giants. Personally, I am hoping for the Giants. Who would have ever thought? Rangers-Giants World Series? Thanks to my parents, I am flying home next weekend to witness the first ever World Series game to be played in Arlington, and I could NOT be more excited about it! Whoever their opponent may be, the Rangers will bring their swagger, smiles, claws, and antlers to the field. Pinstripes be gone! Have a nice off-season Yankees, we’ll still be playing baseball.

Check out these AWESOME celebration videos… It’s been a long time coming… gives me chills:

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“Cliff”ord the Big Bad Pitcher Helps Rangers Make History!

UnbeLEEvable. You can mark October 12, 2010 down in the history books as the day the Texas Rangers won their first playoff series in franchise history. And they did it in in sparkling fashion due much to the history-making, lights out pitching of lefty Cliff Lee who looked like a god pitching against mere mortals. Stepping on to the mound in a Game 5 “win or go home” situation Cliff Lee was, well, Cliff Lee. While leading his team to a 5-1 victory, he looked all the part of a superhero on the mound (without a cape, unfortunately) confusing batters with his wicked pitch selections while pitching all 9 innings complete with 11 strikeouts and no walks bringing his series numbers to staggering heights. With 16 innings pitched, 11 hits allowed, 2 runs scored, 21 strikeouts, 0 walks, 224 pitches, and 166 strikes thrown you could make a serious case for Cliff Lee being the Rangers’ ALDS MVP. His 21 strikeouts (without a walk) were the most in a playoff series ever and his 11 Ks in Game 5 were the most in a “winner take all” situation in playoff history. Oh and by the way, he tossed 120 pitches last night… 90 of them were strikes. Are you kidding me, Captain Consistency? Not only did Cliff dominate the mound, but his pitching counterparts overachieved throughout the series as well: Texas pitchers struck out 55 batters over the course of the five game series, a record for a division series. And while we’re talking about making history, it was also the first time in playoff history that the visiting team won every single game. Just complete madness. The record books were definitely re-written last night and I’m glad it happened at the hands of the Rangers.

Let’s be clear about one thing, the Rangers whole-heartedly earned their Game 5 victory. Their first 3 runs in the game were manufactured by sheer alertness, speed, and aggressive base-running. It was all about the hustle and therefore it was all about the infamous antlers for the Rangers. Elvis Andrus stole second base and then made a run for third with Josh Hamilton at the plate in the first inning. Andrus ended up scoring easily thanks to the distracted play of Rays picther David Price and first baseman Carlos Pena. Hamilton ended up earned an RBI without even getting a hit. Nellie Cruz’ speed after an off-the-wall double in the fourth caught the Rays off guard for the second time. Cruz took off to steal third and catcher Kelly Shoppach’s attempted throw to tag Cruz out went sailing over third baseman Evan Longoria’s head into left field, allowing Cruz to score easily. Vlad Guerrero scored from second base in the sixth inning on a ball that didn’t make it out of the infield. Wait, what? Guerrero got a jump off of second base as Ian Kinsler hit a dribbler towards second base. The Rays tried to turn a double play, but Kinsler beat the tag at first. As pitcher David Price, who was covering first base, turned to argue the call with the first base umpire, Vladdy took off for home and slid in just ahead of the throw to home. Even notoriously slow Rangers’ catcher Bengie Molina (I would be slow too if I sat crouched all day long too, Bengie) earned a stolen base, his first since 2006. Ian Kinsler’s two-run homer in the ninth sealed the deal. Lemme tell you, there were plenty of antlers and smiles to go around in the Rangers dugout during the duration of the deciding Game 5. Embrace the antlers.

When Rays outfielder BJ Upton popped up for the final out of the game Cliff Lee didn’t even turn around to watch. He just started walking towards Molina as the two joyously embraced somewhere between the mound and home plate and were soon mobbed by the rest of their delighted teammates. My heart swelled when replays revealed manager Ron Washington scurrying over to another coach in the dugout and putting his arm around his neck in anticipation the second Upton made contact with the ball. When Andrus made the catch to end the game, the two happily embraced and started jumping up and down like little kids. The camaraderie this team has built is something rare and is a thing to behold in professional sports. From their claw and antler hand gestures, which are usually accompanied with a toothy grin, to their childlike prancing around in the dugout after big plays, these guys look like Little Leaguers first experiencing the joy that baseball can bring to a young boy. After Kinsler’s dinger in the ninth that essentially iced the game, cameras panned to him and Hamilton playing in the dugout. Kinsler pulled out his imaginary flaming guns (his thumb and pointer finger on both hands), blew on them, and re-holstered them on the belt of his uniform as Hamilton was playfully jabbing him in the ribs. Seriously, how cute are these guys?! I love it. The boyish charm, family-like unity, and their genuine love for the game and each other is more evident than I have ever seen on another professional team and it brings a smile to your face.

And if you’re questioning the classiness of this group of guys… I’m about to put that to rest. The Rangers put their own spin on the traditional post-game lockerroom champagne popping celebration. The first round of celebrating was done with ginger ale last night so that MVP candidate Josh Hamilton could feel comfortable partaking in the festivities. Hamilton, whose previous battles with substance and alcohol abuse were well-documented in the media, missed out on the celebration when the Rangers clinched the AL West because he wanted to stay away from the alcohol running freely in the lockerroom. He dressed quietly in a side office and swiftly left his teammates celebrating to speak to a church group about his life. Last night, that was not the case. The Rangers made sure of it by sacrificing the traditional booze-fest for the love of their superstar teammate. They impatiently waited for Hamilton to arrive after a post-game interview and promptly doused him with ginger ale upon his arrival. “They were waiting on me out there. They came around the corner, they doused me with the ginger ale. I had no idea they were doing that. It says a lot about my teammates, them understanding the sensitivity of my situation and not wanting to send the wrong message to other people out there.” In today’s sports world of egotistical, fame obsessed, power hungry athletes this was one of the classiest acts I have ever witnessed. These guys have made it impossible not to fall completely in love with them even if you aren’t a hometown fan like myself. The unwavering love, unity, and class is what has made this ball club what it is. Bring on those damn Yankees! 

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Got My Sports Shorts On!

Apologies for the delay since my last blog, but we finally started classes here at UCLA so my responsibilities have exponentially risen over the past few weeks! I feel like I am running 200 MPH all day, every day! SO… I’ll do my best to keep up with the real world throughout the school year. And by the way, my definition of the real world is the sports world. Here are my thoughts on what has been going on in the wide world of sports over the past couple of weeks:

RANGERS: Holy Texas Rangers, batman! As the only major league team who has never won a playoff series, The Rangers are making the most of their 2010 opportunity. After putting a 2-0 chokehold on the Tampa Bay Rays this afternoon they are well on their way to the next round of the playoffs, a place they have only heard stories about. Going up 2-0 on the impressive Rays while playing in Tampa and heading back to Texas for Game 3 and Game 4  is HUGE. Cliff Lee was incredibly dominant in Game 1 and CJ Wilson only allowed 2 hits through his 6 1/3 innings of work today. The defense was stellar featuring Josh Hamilton (per usual) and the Rangers loaded lineup stepped up to the plate and delivered including third baseman Michael Young getting his first post-season hit of his career, a three-run homer in the fifth to crack the game open for the Rangers. While watching the last few innings of the game from my trusty elliptical in our training room, I was laughing out loud watching Wilson and Hamilton clown around with each other in the dugout once the game was firmly in their grasp. Josh was making faces at the camera while CJ was lurking unknowingly behind him throwing up bunny ears and the infamous antlers. It was an awesome display of how much genuine fun these guys are having soaking up every second of what could potentially become the franchise’s most successful playoff run to date. Well, what am I saying? They have already won a playoff game, so they have already upstaged their Ranger predecessors. I just love watching professional athletes when it’s clear that they REALLY ENJOY PLAYING. It’s not about the money or the fame for these guys… It’s about the game, hanging out with each other, and winning games. How refreshing! Keep it going boys, lemme see your claws and antlers! 

COWBOYS: As outstanding as Dez Bryant has been on the field thus far, he finally got his pay back for his refusal to carry Roy William’s pads during pre-season training camp (See: “Dear Dez, You Have to Fit In Before You Can Stand Out”). During the bye week Bryant invited the offensive players out to dinner, on him of course, to (literally) pay his dues as the star rookie on the team. Much to Bryant’s surprise, not only did the offense show up…. so did the defense, on a special personal invite straight from Roy Williams. This was obviously the perfect opportunity for  the revenge that William’s spoke of a few months back. And he took full advantage of it. The ‘Boys ordered nearly every item on the menu at Pappa’s Steakhouse including numerous bottles of expensive bottles to go. Apparently the price for not carrying a veteran’s pads is, drumroll please… $55,000. AWESOME. Oh, and the Cowboys are 1-2. Meh.

BRUINS: I could definitely get used to this whole winning football games thing. The Bruins took care of business last weekend against the hapless, toothless Washington State Cougars winning 42-28 in front of the hometown crowd at the Rosebowl. It would have been easy to have a football hangover after the emotionall victory over Texas, but the Bruins scratched and clawed their way to a somewhat sloppy victory, which in my opinion probably wouldn’t have happened in previous years. Richard Brehaut got the start in place of Kevin Prince, who was experiencing some knee swelling following a hit during the Texas game, completing 12 of 23 passes for 128 passing yards and was poised under pressure scoring the go-ahead TD on a QB keeper in the 4th quarter. The lightning and thunder one-two punch of Jet Franklin (216 yards) and Derrick Coleman (185 yards) made their substantial contributions to the Bruins 437 rushing yards. I’m PRETTY sure we have found a solid identity in our running game, don’cha think? Kai Forbath made two field goals bringing his collegiate total completions to 80, just five behind John Lee who holds the school record with 85. A Bruin win, an SC loss, and a Stanford loss made reason for celebration on Saturday evening in Westwood! Hard work, positive attitudes, and guts are paying off. Let’s take it on the road to Cal this Saturday, Bruins baby!

RANDOM THOUGHTS:

  • The “Year of the Pitcher” has evidently carried over into October post-season fun. Timmy Lincecum gets 14 Ks tonight and Roy Halladay tossed the second no-hitter of MLB playoff history yesterday. What an animal. If not for one pitch, he would have had his second PERFECT GAME of the year. That’s just filthy. I’m not gonna lie… if it gets to the point where the Rangers are playing the Phillies… I’m gonna be a little nervous. And by a little nervous, I mean A LOT nervous. What a way come out for your first playoff start ever, congratulations Roy!
  • Randy Moss is on the move, people. Back to the Vikings he goes. A few weeks ago he made it clear that he felt unwanted/under-appreciated in New England. The Pats solved that problem real quick. I’m sure Grandpa Brett will be happy to have Moss in the Minny endzone since Sidney Rice is still out after hip surgery and poor Percy Harvin seems to still be suffering with his bouts of migraines. Come MNF we’ll see how Moss looks in purple… again.
  • The Texas Longhorns are suffering on the gridiron… and that’s an understatement. After losses to UCLA(!) and Oklahoma, UT has fallen out of the AP Top 25 for the first time in 9 years. It happens to the best of us, but it’s just so weird to have a Top 25 without the Longhorns in it. Interested to see how they rebound and if they can get it together after a bye this weekend.
  • Our head gymnastics coach, Valorie Kondos-Field, was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend. What an amazing accomplishment! Just wanted to give her a shout out of mad congratulations. We’re all so proud! Senior class with Miss Val:
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These Rangers PLAY Ball!

In the land of “America’s Team” where 420,000 square feet stadiums are an actual entity, Jerry Jones’ celebrity status might rival that of Lady Gaga, and where football is considered religion it has been astonishing to witness first-hand the blazing baseball fever that North Texas has caught. I’m gonna estimate the metropolis’s baseball temperature at about 103 (the high temperature during Sunday’s day game against the Red Sox.) As would be expected, consistently winning games and leading the AL West by 8 games has been bringing more and more fans out to Ranger Ballpark which, is all well and good, but I think there is an intangible that has boosted the appeal of baseball to the usual football fixated residents of North Texas. This ball club is FUN! They are clearly enjoying themselves, which, seems to be contributing to the team’s chemistry, increasing ticket sales exponentially, and the numbers in the win column just keep climbing.

Usually “great” teams are solely focused on winning, expect nothing less than the best, build super teams with a high payroll, experience enormous pressure from themselves, fans and the media, and through all of this likely come out on top. Exhibit A: The New York Yankees players and personnel having to “adjust” to Nick Swisher’s extroverted personality and celebratory post game “pie-in-the-face” antics. Let’s be real, these are the New York freakin’ Yankees. They have won 27 championships, have seen some of the best players in the game walk through their hallowed lockeroom, and have a colossal payroll. But they don’t necessarily seem to be having any genuine fun while lost in their serious personas. NEWSFLASH boys: You are still playing a game!

The 2010 rendition of the Texas Rangers is just about the farthest thing you can get from the stereotypical look and feel of a “great” team. The relaxed, entertaining guys that we are watching atop the AL West standings are there because they are truly capturing the essence of being a team. They may not be the highest paid or the most talented guys out on the diamond each night (Josh Hamilton and Cliff Lee aside), but they are living in the moment, genuinely enjoying being around each other, and savoring the time they have to play the game that they love.

This team boasts a load of idiosyncrasies that seem to have greatly enhanced their chemistry and caught the attention of Ranger fans. First off, “the antlers” for speed.  When a player makes a hustle play like stealing a base or hauling booty from the second base bag all the way around to score on a single, they get “the antlers” from the boys in the dugout. One hand on either side, thumbs touching your head, fingers spread and sticking right up to the sky… like a deer! Second, “the claw” for strength. Any kind of base hit warrants a player throwing up “the claw” to the dugout and receiving the same signal right back. A single calls for a slight paw at the air. A double permits a little bit stronger hand above the shoulder claw. And a triple gives you license to throw “the claw” up like you were a big ol’ grizzly bear.

Cut to Mitch Moreland who just recently got called up to “The Show” from Triple A ball. After his first major league hit Josh Hamilton, Nellie Cruz, and Ian Kinsler were frantically trying to get Moreland’s attention from the dugout. Did he do something wrong? Was the ball called foul? Were they trying to give him instructions to steal second or something? No, absolutely not. They just wanted to give the kid his first “claw,” and revel in their new teammate’s success right along with him.

THAT is what being a team is all about. The silly hand signs are just a way to acknowledge the effort by the guys out on the field making great plays and an effort to keep the game fun. Some people think they’re silly, I think they’re brilliant. It’s these kinds of little “inside jokes” and gestures that continually draw a team together. When a team feels that unity, every guy is going to want to go out there every night and leave it all out on the field for his boys all the while enjoying the sport. A team doesn’t necessarily have to be the most talented or the highest paid to win ball games, but it’s critical that they are having fun. The administration can feel it, the players can feel it, the fans can feel it. There is something special about this team and they are clearly capable of accomplishing something great… all because they’re ENJOYING the game as well as each other.

Let’s go Rangers, LET’S PLAY BALL!

Check out pitcher CJ Wilson getting and giving “the antlers:”

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DINGER DERBY IN TEXAS!

One word can describe last night’s match-up between the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox: STUNNING. This ball game was an incredible showcase of America’s favorite bubble-gun chewing, sunflower seed spitting, crotch scratching, butt tapping pastime at its very best. With a game time temperature of 99 degrees (brutal!), the hot bats of both teams seemed to parallel the blistering North Texas temperatures. The combined numbers for the game were staggering. Thirty hits, 9 home runs, 12 pitching changes, and countless trademark “antlers” and “claws” hand signals from the Rangers dugout later,Texas went on to win the game 10-9 in the bottom of the 11th. The walk-off dinger administered by Nellie Cruz, sent the 47,195 fans into an absolute sweaty, high-fiving frenzy. And never mind the back-to-back-to-back homers given up by Ranger’s starter Tommy Hunter (who reportedly was puking between innings due to a bout with the stomach flu) in the fourth inning, apparently that didn’t daunt these scrappy Rangers for a second. An 8-2 deficit was, apparently, “no biggie.”

Josh Hamilton, the Ranger’s centerfielder, may have arguably had the best performance by a Ranger EVER. Hamilton’s Friday night arsenal included 4 hits (HR, a double, two singles), scoring 4 runs, 2 unbelievable defensive plays, and a stolen base. I mean seriously, what CAN’T this guy do? Sportscenter could have given him his own Top 10 and I’m pretty sure nobody would have objected to it. He is making a loud case for himself in the AL MVP race, it just doesn’t get much better than Josh Hamilton at the moment. Needless to say, he got the ceremonial post-game pie-in-the-face from his adoring teammates.

And what a first day at the office for Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan! As if the day one lowered prices of beer, hot dogs, and parking wasn’t already enough to continue enticing fans, the Rangers clawed their way back from an 8-2 deficit, lead by Hamilton’s MVP performance and Cruz’s walk-off homerun, to put on an absolute stellar show for the Ranger fans that made their way out to the ballpark. If Greenberg and Ryan could schedule high drama, walk-off ball games on a regular basis… the plentiful Ranger fans would never leave Rangers Ballpark dissatisfied no matter what the temperatures. For their first official day as the new owners of this team, I would say they had a pretty enjoyable day at the office.

Check out the highlights from last night’s game here from TexasRangers.com:

Featured | 08/13/10: Rangers sink Sox thanks to round-trip Cruz – Video | texasrangers.com: Multimedia.

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