Back To The Game

Writing about painful things is never fun.

It can be useful catharsis, of course; but the last couple of years for the Texas Rangers didn’t feel like necessary dues-paying or “part of the process”…my impression was that the Rangers zigged when they should have zagged. They took the wrong turn at Albuquerque. They missed the last plane to Lisbon. And so on. That is to say, I felt they wound up where they were by making some bad choices, not necessarily as the part of the normal decline of a good team.

And so, everything I tried to write was negative. I couldn’t focus on the positive, because I felt that half the problems were self-inflicted wounds. Covering things from that point of view just ends up starting fights; fights I really wasn’t interested in. And then going into this season, as I saw the Rangers revamp their pitching program from the ground up, and saw real results from changing batting coaches and instruction, and saw Texas finally embrace technology and advanced analysis, I saw real reason for hope.

Ironically, this time a large percentage of the fanbase wasn’t engaged in optimism. A lot of people still think that the Rangers will never win again without a Front Office tear-down. Or specifically, without a Jon Daniels tear-down, as the entire rest of the Front Office is new at this point.

But I’M optimistic, dammit, and I’m writing this, and what we need now is a sign from the baseball gods that everything is gonna be alright.

Yesterday, Josh Hamilton suddenly showed up in Central Texas. Sober, clean, melancholic? Yes. And being a father to his softball playing girls.

He’s back because it’s time…or rather enough time has passed.

His knees feel fine, but he wants to be with his girls.

He could still DH. Dear Lord, we all KNOW he could still DH. And he knows it. But he wants to be with his girls.

He misses playing baseball. He never watched it much, but finds himself watching games sometimes. While he’s taking care of his girls.

He misses being that Josh Hamilton, and he knows that WE miss him being that Josh Hamilton.

But he wants to take care of his girls.

Stay clean. Stay sober. Take care of his girls. Take care of himself. Be a contributing member of the community. That’s his mantra.

On August 17th, he’ll be back at Globe Life Park/The Ballpark in Arlington, a place he helped make important every bit as much as Nolan Ryan, Rafael Palmeiro, and Adrian Beltre. And Yu Darvish, Elvis Andrus, Joey Gallo, and all your favorite Rangers. Josh Hamilton will become a member of the Rangers Hall of Fame, an award he surely deserves…one of the greatest Rangers to ever play the game.

He's back now because maybe it’s just time. Time to be a part of the game again? I guess we’ll see. Time to be honored by his peers, certainly. Time to be loved by his fans again; pretty sure that’s gonna happen. Time because the Rangers, for the first time since Hamilton left after the 2012 season, have another Josh Hamilton in Center Field.

Time because the Rangers are alright, now. And Josh is alright, now.

May the baseball gods smile on both.

Welcome back.

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One More Strike

According to Terrance Mann, the James Earl Jones played character in Field of Dreams, “baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

As accurate as this quote is for the extensive history of the game of baseball, it also rings true for the lives of so many fans. 

I am proud to be one of those fans and excited that the next step with my ever-evolving relationship with the game of baseball will be with One Strike Away and the ESPN SweetSpot Network. 

The game of baseball has always been a huge part of my life, starting with some of the happiest memories of my childhood.  As I moved to a new town in the third grade, I quickly latched on to other boys who traded baseball cards; checking values and making trades as if I was the general manager of a team.  My prized card in the collection?  A 1969 Topps Nolan Ryan card. 

As I began to adjust to small town life, I found that my play on the baseball field helped my social life much more than my growing binder of Ryan cards ever would.  The countless hours spent throwing a baseball at a tire in the backyard while pretending to be Nolan translated into an obsession that opened many doors in my life, with the baseball field providing so many of my greatest memories in both high school and college. 

Baseball is a game of ebbs and flows, a game of mental strength and endurance, and a game of hope.  So many of the events of my life can be carefully marked by coinciding events of the Texas Rangers and either the joy, hope, or sorrow that my team was providing. 

1999 was the year of my high school graduation, but it will always be remembered for the Rangers’ American League West Championship and the playoff drought that would follow. 2001 was my last year of playing competitive baseball, but will forever be further marred by being the year the Rangers sold their souls to Alex Rodriguez.  My son was born in 2010, but whenever I hear anyone reference that year, I immediately think of the World Series. 

Not only has baseball “marked the time” in my life, but every time I watch a game or step on a field, I am clearly reminded of “all that once was good and it could be again”.  I am fortunate enough to have an opportunity to coach high school baseball and help instill the joy, memories, and life lessons that the game has to offer to the next generation of baseball addicts. I hope to give something back to a game that has given me so much and am constantly looking for new avenues to stay involved within baseball. 

One Strike Away is providing me with my newest avenue and I greatly look forward to having the opportunity to make more memories with Texas Rangers baseball. 

My greatest memory as a fan of the Texas Rangers actually came from a loss.  Saturday, July 10, 2010, in a game that I was able to watch due to local Baltimore Orioles coverage here in Virginia, I was able to lean back in a hospital recliner with my son, who was not even a full day old at this point, and watch our first baseball game together.  I remember seeing Cliff Lee take the field in a Rangers uniform for the first time and thinking, “Wow, we’ve got something special and amazing here”, then looking down at my son and knowing the same was true with him. 

Of course I knew my son was special.  After all, I did just name him Nolan.