Saturday, September 25, 2010

What Dreams May Come

10 years ago, my Dad made an announcement.

"Josh, we're going to a lot of Ranger games this year."

What? Ranger games? I had only been to a Ranger game once before. I was actually sort of a downer about it. After all, my 11 year-old self was more concerned with Nintendo 64 and Dragonball Z, not baseball. Sure, my older brother was becoming baseball Jesus, but that's about all I had involved with the sport. I had no desire or interest to spend my youthful and crazy 11 year-old summer nights in Arlington watching baseball. My only experience had come the year before, where my Mom told me to where some shirt that had a Ranger red helmet on one side and a Yankee dark blue helmet on the other to school one day. That's about it.

When I first settled into my seat in section 32, row 29, seat two, I was awestruck. Our seats were breathtaking, considering I thought you watched baseball games through a rusty backstop (my brother's high school games) or way up high into the sky, looking at the ballplayers like tiny ants below you (my one Ranger baseball experience before then). I quickly fell in love. Going to something 70 times a year will do that to you.

Over the course of 2000-2007, that's about what I averaged: 70 Ranger home games a year. I met some wonderful people around our seats, and saw some truly amazing players. But Alex Rodriguez is the one who drew me in. Like him or not, I was dumbfounded at his tape measure shots, no matter how artificial they may have been. I loved his incredible defense, his impeccable baseball IQ. Everything was great. I had to go to every game because I didn't want to be at home when Alex Rodriguez did that, whether it be a moonshot to the upper deck or throwing out a runner from deep in the hole at short. I had to witness it.

I was able to watch a lot of other great players. Pudge. Juan. Palmeiro. Soriano. Teixera. Cordero. Rogers. And of course, Michael Young and Josh Hamilton.

But I also saw a lot of bad players. Richard Hidalgo. Brian Jordan. Carl Evertt (I don't care what you say, but I hated everything about him). John Rheinecker. John Rocker. Luis Mendoza. And those are just the ones I can really remember booing. There were countless other "pieces" that were said to get the Rangers over the hump. And we all know how that worked out.

For a long time, I just figured the Rangers were the American League Pittsburgh Pirates - destined to make fan bases miserable and unhappy. I watched every October with envy of the Yankees and the Red Sox, how it was so effortless for them to make the playoffs. Still, every April, there I was, in section 32, row 29, seat two. Wearing my free Ranger t-shirt from promotion day 125, but I was there. And I loved it.

So when Neftali Feliz record the final out (in the stadium he made his ML debut AND setting the rookie saves record), I didn't know what to do. I literally had no idea what to do with my hands. I have never felt this feeling before. The Rangers are in the playoffs. The Texas Rangers are in the bleepin' playoffs.

There have been only three moments in my life where sports have caused me to shed tears. First was during Pudge's "last" game as a Ranger back in 2002. He hit a home run during his second or third at-bat, I can't remember. The entire stadium stood for what seemed like three hours, just cheering and clapping. The second was when the Maverick's beat the Spurs in game seven of the 2006 playoffs. And the third? Three words: NBA Finals 2006. (Well, that's actually one word, a number and an acronym. Screw you.)

We can definitely add number four to the list tonight, although it was the single tear. I might have only been a "true" fan since 2000. I didn't watch the Rangers in the 70s, 80s or 90s so I don't have as many "skins on the wall" so to speak. But dammit, I watched this team during it's worst times and I loved every minute of it. I wish, prayed and dreamed for this day to come. Now, in about two weeks, I'll be going to my very first playoff game. I'm rambling now, an incoherent mess of memories and wishes. I'll stop here.

I love the Rangers.

I love this team.

I love baseball.

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