I was sitting in the living room on the night of Game 4 in the American League Championship Series between the World Series defending champion, New York Yankees, and the most unlikely team to be participating in the 2010 championship series—my home team—the Texas Rangers. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the man who first instilled the love and joy for the game of my youth expel his enthusiasm for the team who first taught me what it was to live and die with a team. And watching that game as the Texas Rangers put an exclamation point on their victory, excelling them 3 games to 1 over the team who has put an exclamation point on the assurance that our team never claims victory to any post-season dreams, I couldn’t help but recall the years I spent with my first hero—my father—and the game of my youth.
So many years I learned life lessons between playing catch with dad or discovered tactics for studying homework between ground balls and even more so, learned a bit about becoming a man while learning how to work a pitch count behind the plate. And through those years, despite growing up without the privileges of more well-to-do kid, in a neighborhood where no one was better off than anyone else, and in the home where ten of us shared three rooms and one bathroom, Dad found a way to get us to the ballpark to cheer our team. As a kid you never worry about what seats are best, because being at the ballpark with Dad was more than any ticket could ever buy. In those old steel bleachers where it was BYOB, we cheered the names that epitomized a potential dream of becoming world champions, names like Oddibe McDowell, Pete O’Brien, Pete Incaviglia, Cecil Espy, Julio Franco, Rafael Palmeiro, Ruben Sierra, Juan Gonzalez, Nolan Ryan, and Jim Sundberg. Years later, when a new stadium was built and with it, new hopes, we cheered the likes of my baseball greats, like my hero, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez.
The seats were cheap; for less than five dollars we had a place on a long aluminum bench, shared with a band of other Ranger supporters who couldn’t keep track of who was batting by the time we all sang and danced the Cotton Eyed Joe. And, with a used canned soda, we saved more than a dollar per ticket. We packed sandwiches and a few canned sodas and we enjoyed the game together, as a family, and we cheered our team between the wave and slaps of high-fives. And through those years, we had good moments and we celebrated small victories and we envisioned a day when the Texas Rangers would be a real baseball team, contenders against those baseball gods like the team who today has had to tip their hats to the new era of hero’s that now comprise our team.
In the backyard and the lot in the yard across from one of my best friend’s houses, I played the game my father taught me and secretly pretended to be a big leaguer, mimicking the men my father so eloquently described in the old Arlington Stadium. As the years went by, I learned more about the game from my father while he coached my teammates in a rickety baseball league that today is replaced by overrun grass off Interstate 35. I played this game through my high-school years, played a bit more while in the Marines and upon my return home and after I started a family of my own, I passed on my father’s legacy to my own children, coaching my daughter and both my sons.
This game has become synonymous with love. It runs through the veins and hearts of my family and it represents more than just hits and outs, but relationships and reason, purpose and dreams, desire and ambitions. And tonight, away from my children, but close to my father, I witnessed history in the city where we once believed and only dreamed of saying the words: World Series. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting conclusion to a wonderful season of baseball, shared with the man who first told me he would never let me quit, no matter how hard life came and used baseball as the justification for effort.
I am honored to say I have been a fan of the team who is now on their way to a first World Series for the city of Arlington and the fans of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. I am honored to say that we have suffered through the heartaches of many bad seasons and suffered a bit more each time we got a glimpse of greatness, only to fall short like a ball that just passed over the white chalk of the foul line. I am honored to say I witnessed this moment with the man who made sure I played the game with honor and taught me how to spread the legacy of the game that defined my childhood.
On behalf of all my childhood dreams and on behalf of a family of baseball fans, lovers of the game, we salute you Texas Rangers and we wish to say thank you—one family, to another.
...how about them Texas Rangers!
...how about them Texas Rangers!