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Little Cardinal Like Faith

Baseball is a religion.

I mean it even has its own prayer.

God grant me wisdom,
to tell a strike from a ball,
to know where to throw
and never to fall.
Keep me always in the base line,
running straight and true
and I’ll look for your sign,
to stretch one into two.
God give me vision,
to see every pitch,
so if a player needs help,
then I will see which.
Let me always hustle,
so I’ll be at my best
and take pride in myself,
in sports and the rest.
God be my strength,
when I throw the ball
when I’m far from home plate,
or against a wall.
So I never miss a base,
please guide my feet,
bring me home safely,
so my job is complete.

When I help younger players,
let me always give praise,
so they’ll see you in me,
in all of my ways.

God please guide our coach,
to be fair and smart,
to teach us to be good,
let it come from his heart.

Let me take a loss,
just as well as a win,
to do any less,
is surely a sin.

As long as I can play,
let me make my parents proud,
as proud as I am,
when they yell MY name out loud.

However my games end,
let me always have fun
and if Heaven has All Stars,
I want to be one.

When my games here are over
and my seasons are done,
let me play on your team.
just like your son.

Amen.

Some are born in to baseball families. Baseball is engrained in to their hearts and minds from the womb. Their first word is ball, they learn how to tie shoes on their cleats, and they bring their tee ball gloves to big league parks to watch their very first heroes. They hear phrases like:

“Play Ball!” “Keep your weight back!” “Keep your eye on the ball!” “Get it out front!” “Don’t pull your head!” “Hit your cut!” “Tag up!”

and plenty others more than they hear their own voice. Baseball indoctrinates them, shapes their thoughts, and carves their sub conscious minds.

There are others that are not born into devotion, but rather find it along the way. Sometime in their young age they are drawn to the connection of the sport. Someone shows them the light, and they begin to slowly convert their family. Later on down the road one would never tell they weren’t original believers.

For others it takes longer. They observe from the outside, learning every detail and breaking down every situation. They see the passion and understand the culture, but their not ready to give their hearts to something so enticing. Until one day, they see something unimaginable. Something so absurd, yet so magnificent that they can no longer run from what has been knocking on their heart for so long. Something like 2004. The Red Sox meeting the Yankees for the 2nd time in a row in the ALCS and losing the first three games of the series. Then, watching them come together, battle back, and win the next four games to take the AL Pennant. If that didn’t get them off the fence, watching them take the next four games to sweep the Cardinals, end the Curse of the Bambino, and win 8 straight post season games, would capture the heart of any lukewarm baseball fan.

And, then there are some who don’t understand and never will. Those who will fight with you about the truth of the game. Most of these people see the unity of baseball and because they do not understand it, their human instinct is to justify against it.

For those who take the baseball path, it’s full of tribulations to endure, lessons to learn, and blessings to enjoy. The baseball Gods take you through times you don’t understand. Times you can’t seem to get a break and find a hole or times you can’t even make contact no matter how much BP you take. Times you think way too much after one error turning it into another…times you can’t get out of your own head so you want to just take yourself off the field. But, then there are times when you are so amazed at your performance you just thank them, and make sure to wear those same socks next game.

At some point in the journey, whether player or fan, the frustration of the game is so piercing that walking away is about the only thing possible. Your love for the game runs so deep that the failure is almost too much to bear and you’re more angry at yourself for becoming so vulnerable than anything. So, you fall to your own thoughts and twist your mind into thinking you can move on…some stay gone and run from their own thoughts forever and some eventually mingle their way back, sometimes even unconsciously.

On May 17, I witnessed the beginning phases of being baseball religious. I had the opportunity to visit Beaumont, Texas. I’m sure Beaumont’s not on many peoples lists of exciting places to see. Let me tell you if you haven’t visited there…you’re not missing out on anything…except Lamar Baseball. Granted, college season has ended, this is a group of guys who can play and are definitely entertaining to watch. I’ve now been to three of their games and been impressed every time. I’m lucky enough to have a ball signed by the team and I feel special! #PeckEm

But, what was so special about the game on the 17th was the little fans. The place was crawling with little Cardinals. All of them were decked out in Lamar red and all of them wanted nothing more than to snag a foul ball. Even if a ball wasn’t even close to them they jumped out of their seats like they were on fire, had a glimmer in their eyes, and sprinted as fast as their little legs would take them. As soon as the promo team tried to give away t-shirts, they were bombarded by future Cardinals who stood below their eye level. One was caught off guard and before he knew it he had kid hanging on his left arm climbing to the shirt he was throwing out of his right hand. I even saw a little girl begging one of the players to for their autograph as he was headed to the locker room in between innings. Watching these children have so much excitement for the game brought me back to being a little girl. Baseball is something that even the smallest fans can understand. It is slow enough for them to know that when someone catches the ball or hits the ball,they should cheer. This age is where baseball starts to stitch itself in your soul. You have your heroes on the field that seem bigger than life and you just cannot wait to be big like them…to play like them. Going to a game is just as exciting as going to the candy store, if not more. As you grow up, you never forget your hero and what he did on the field…mine was Pudge Rodriquez. I remember watching him every game. He is the reason I fell so much in love with the Rangers. It’s the trials, tribulations, the celebrations and victories of these heroes that first grip our tender childhood emotions. Baseball steals our hearts and will never give it back…and thus we are forever pious.

Seeing these kids was refreshing and reminded me to always try to have the child like excitement for baseball and for life that we tend to lose too easily. Remember, always have faith in the game, and in yourself.

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There’s No Place Like Home!

Can I just say that walking in to the Pro Shop at the Ballpark in Arlington was like heaven! I’ve been surrounded with Angels fans and Angels gear and Angels rally monkeys and Angel Flags and Blah Blah Blah for WAY too long. I needed some Ranger in my life. I actually wanted to buy the whole store but then I couldn’t pay for the rest of my trip, so I settled for a cute Rangers shirt for my little baby nephew to wear to the game when I come to Anaheim. I was really stoked to see some old friends! Like a school reunion! Thanks to Blake Lemons, Drew Smith, Zach McKim, Jordan Hartsell, Caitlin Collins, Mackenzie Johnson, and Shondra Carter for coming out to see me and experience our first game of the trip!

It’s crazy how much you don’t really appreciate things or how you think of them when you grow up next to them. I know people who grew up in LA, but have never been to Hollywood Blvd and people come from all over the globe to just to walk down the street and take pictures of a marble star that people walk all over. The same goes for me I grew up going to Texas games but I had never done the tour. And also explains why I forgot to take lots of pictures and why I forgot to get my MLB passport stamp….dangit.

Well, this time I wasn’t skipping the tour. Bob was our tour guide and he was incredibly knowledgable. We toured with two Detroit fans, and it was fun to poke fun and give each other crap the whole time. My favorite part was getting to sit in the dugout. I kinda went crazy, my heart was beating fast and I was just plain star struck, like a little kid. The Ranger’s picked the first base dugout when the park was first built because it is the first one that gets shade. They are smart. I’m actually upset I didn’t have the courage to leave a love note in Craig Gentry’s helmet! He wears a 7 1/8 inch in case you were curious. Alexi Ogando is currently on the DL and therefore when I brushed shoulders with him in the hallway I was caught way too off guard to even think straight…basically I need to get it together! I learned that there is a room called the Ryan Room right behind the dugout. It doubles as a training room but it was Nolan Ryan’s idea to increase the size of the room to allow pinch runners or new batters or just anyone feeling a little stiff during the game. The suites have names from different Hall of Famers and lots of them played for the Yankees…so of course my Yankee friend Shondra was going crazy about that.

In case you didn’t know: It is up to the starting pitcher what color the Rangers wear for their home games.

The game that we went to was one of the greatest pitching match ups that has happened this season. Darvish VS Verlander. I love that they play Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” when Yu pitches, pretty fantastic and made me smile. There was a ton of talk about how Rangers have not had a huge challenge yet this season and blah blah blah…well we rocked Verlander, one of the best pitchers in baseball currently. Until he came to Arlington at least… we put up 8 runs on him the first 3 innings…7 of which came from the 3rd. AND two of them were walked in! BULLPENNNNNNN!!!! He didn’t last past that. And he racked up his second loss in a row.

Darvish lasted a little longer than usual. He threw through the 8th and had a career high of 130 pitches. He allowed 7 hits and 4 runs but with the run support, it was no issue. With a 10-4 win over the Tigers, he is now 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA.

Some of the things that made me feel at home about the park were some things I remembered from being a little girl. When the Tigers went to the bullpen the scoreboard doesn’t let him go easy. They play a cartoon with a Texas Ranger batter with oversized cowboy boots on who stomps to the mound and kicks the opposing pitcher out…and I love it. I can sing my heart out to “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” in the middle of the 5th and there is the Texas Legends race in the middle of the 6th. This is where mascots dressed as Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Sam Houston race around the field. That’s also an exciting experience. If you don’t know who they are…you’re not a Texan so don’t worry about it. I’m wondering if this replaced the dot races that used to happen at the ballpark. They would pass out little Ozarka cards with a red, green, or blue dot and people dressed in Dot Mascots would race around the park. And people would cheer for the card that they got. As a little girl I was sneaky and I would take one of every color…I’m too competitive to lose to my dad and that method was foolproof! At the top of the 7th they do the ‘Steal a Base’ where they have a young kid run from outfield to pick up third base and bring it back and if they do it under a certain time they get to keep it. I’m always jealous of that…I would so get back in time and I want a real base!! Obviously we play “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch but if you stay standing you can dance to a southern classic “Cotten Eyed-Joe” immediately after.

All of these traditions are what makes one fall in love with their home field. I know that as a 22 year old I can come to the park and sing the same songs and look forward to the same same activities that I did when I was 5. It brings you back to that place and just puts a smile on your face and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I loved being back home and I loved watching Texas whoop up on the Tigers. I can’t wait to watch Texas again on Memorial Day.

What I learned from my friends that did the tour with me was that only in baseball do you have a connection between players, fans, and managers. It’s different than other sports. It’s like you can understand one another on a different level and you can feed off their passion.

Well the bar is filling up across the street from Minute Maid! Which tells me its about time I get ready for the game….Rootin for the home team tonight!!! Royals @ Astros

Texas Love is Patient

THE Texas Rangers.

I’m fanatical about them.

Before I tell you about the Verlander vs Darvish game that I went to on 5/16 here is a little bit of history about my favorite team and their park.

Everything’s bigger in Texas…including the love for our Rangers.

Yes, It has been heartbreaking the last three seasons. I’ve cried, yelled, and been speechless on more than one occasion. So please, don’t remind me how many times we were one out away or one strike away. I’m fully aware and I am still healing.

I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite childhood memories are going to the Ballpark in Arlington with my dad and my glove. Pudge was my hero! Most little girls want tea parties and dress up…not me. I wanted baseball. I still want baseball, and when I’m at a Rangers game I feel like I’m home.

The Texas Rangers started as the Washington Senators. In 1961 after the original Senators moved to Minnesota, Major League baseball granted the nation’s capitol with one of four expansion teams that year. They took the same name as the old team, but were a completely new ball club.

In the first years the team was a joke. Literally. “Washington: first in war, first in peace, and still last in the American League.” They only had one winning season as the Senators. Fans stayed away while the Orioles only 45 miles away won four pennants and two World Series from 1966-1971. Bob Hope, the club’s GM, got approval to move to Arlington, Texas for the 1972 season. Arlington Mayor, Tom Vandergriff was definitely open to the idea. The team was officially named theTexas Rangers after the famous Texas Rangers law enforcement.

The Senators’ last game was chaos. Fans were livid. After the Security guards walked out early, around 10,000 fans entered the game for free. With the Senators up 7-5 in the top of the 9th, fans raided the field for souvenirs. With no bases left, no security, and fans everywhere the umpire called the game. The Senators forfeited their last game to the Yankees.

Moving to Arlington was an ideal location. Dead center of the Metroplex, halfway between Fort Worth and Dallas, the team would be able to attract a huge fan base. It pains me to say our first game on April 15, 1972 we lost to the Angels. I guess the only good part about that is that the next day we beat them. The very first Texas Rangers victory was over the Angels.

Turnpike Stadium, later named Arlington Stadium for the MLB team, was built as a minor league park in 1965. The vision of the stadium was to attract a Major League team and therefore was built to major league speculations and with the ability to expand seats when needed. The stadium had the largest bleacher section in the Major Leagues. “Bat Night” was a promotional night where kids under 12 would receive bats to bang on the bleachers to create a deafening sound. With a struggling team, this was often the only sell-out night of the year. I’m proud to say Arlington Stadium was the first in the Majors to sell nachos…I love nachos. Until 1978, the stadium had the ability to be used as a football field. That changed when they permanently fixed seats and added an upper deck. The biggest draw back to the stadium was the heat. It’sTexas, and it’s HOT. Summer temperatures often rise over 100 and no to mention the ridiculous amount of humidity. You can walk outside and two minutes later feel like you just got out of the pool. The Stadium didn’t have a roof, so there was no blocking the rays of the Texas sun. I can only imagine the sunburns that were created. For this reason most of the Rangers home games were played at night. This is still true today. Another early tradition that still stands is the playing “Cotton Eyed Joe” during the 7th inning stretch. It is always fun to do a little dancin’ after your stretchin’.

Arlington stadium, unfortunately, never saw a post season or an All-Star game. Only two players, Cal Ripkin Jr. and Oddibe McDowell, hit for the cycle and Mike Witt pitched the 11th perfect game in MLB history. Perhaps Arlington Stadiums best moments were Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strike out and 7th no-hitter.

With Arlington Stadium aging and becoming less functional for the team, plans for The Ballpark in Arlington began. With George W. Bush as part owner the new stadium broke ground on October 10, 1991. When Bush was elected Governor ofTexas, he left his position with the Rangers.

The Ballpark in Arlington brought the same home plate, foul poles and some of the bleachers from the old field. The bleachers are now painted green but if you could find chipping paint you can experience the original Arlington Stadium. Those bleachers have since been removed and replaced with The Batters’ Eye Club. True baseball fans will notice glimmers of other parks in the architecture. The roof top double-decker outfield porch clearly copies Tiger Stadium, Fenways out-of-town scoreboard, which has been replaced by a video board, was depicted in the outfield wall, the irregularities of the outfield fence are similar to Ebbets the white fences in centerfields’ upper deck are reminiscent of old Yankee Stadium ( actually office buiildings…it’s a good thing I don’t work there I’d never get anything done), and the outer structure combines arches of original Comiskey and red brick of Camden Yards. Outside the park, on the north and west sides, is the Rangers Walk of Fame. Brick panels with the rosters of every team since the Senators moved to Texas in 1972. As for the MVP, Gold Gloves and other awards, there are special markers to set them out from the rest.

The Rangers Hall of Fame is an exciting attraction for the baseball enthusiast. Vandergriff Plaza in center field is fun for the family. Here you can find a statue of Tom Vandergriff ( the father of theTexas Rangers) and Nolan Ryan. And if you’re expecting a home run, run to Greene’s hill, jump the fence and race the 10 year old boys for the ball before it rolls down the hill. Greene’s Hill is the all green batters eye located in center field. It is name after ex Arlington Mayor, Richard Greene, and is definitely a home run ball magnet.

The park opened in 1994 with an exhibition game against the Mets on April 1 and the first actual game against the Brewers on April 11. The next year Johnny Oates was brought on as the manager and the park hosted its first All Star Game. In 1996 Oates lead the team to see it’s first Division Series victory and was later awarded Manager of the Year. That year AL MVP went to Rangers Outfielder and one of the most feared RBI producers in the game, Juan Gonzalez. Oates also led the team to two consecutive AL West titles in 1998 and 1999 but neither year could they get past the Yankees…suffering two back to back sweeps in the ALDS.

As a Rangers fan, I’m used to inconsistency. You could find Texas Rangers in the dictionary definition of the word. We never failed to put star players on the field. Big names have worn Texas on their shirt : Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Rustry Greer, A-Rod, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, Michael Young, Hank Blalock, David Dellucci, Sammy Sosa, Frank Catalanotto, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli… and so many more. But we haven’t been able to take it all. I just want one World Series!

Whether is declaring bankruptcy or being one shy of MLB team strikeout record in one game and three days later smashing the record for runs by one team beating the Orioles 30-3 or leading the AL West the entire season only to lose the title in game 162 to a fairy tale team…being a Rangers fan is nothing but roller coaster ride. I can say though that the first two years of Nolan Ryan owning the team we had a World Series appearance…maybe we just have to be patient, I have faith, I love the Rangers, always have, always will.

 GO RANGERS!