Thursday, July 06, 2006

Warning to all my faithful blog readers who do not like it when I devote an entire day's entry to the Rangers (especially my mom): Don't give up on this one. This is about much more than the Rangers and I promise you'll like it!

Each Wednesday in my email inbox arrives Evan Grant’s Inside the Rangers feature. Grant always has a short essay on the Rangers before launching into a Q & A with Rangers fans on the state of the team.

This week’s edition, though, was outside the norm. Rather than an in-depth essay about the team on the field, Evan delved into some personal experiences from the Rangers recently concluded Road Trip to Colorado and San Francisco that capture off-the-field stuff to which fans aren’t typically privy. I enjoyed it and the perspective it brought. I hope you do as well.

Been thinking. Head hurts.

I know. I know. I should do that less often. But inside the old cranium, the voices are arguing:

Talk about something significant,” the one little man says. “This team is going nowhere.’’

“Take their minds off that,” says the other little guy.

Now maybe you understand the torment that is my life.

For once, I’ll listen to little guy instead of little man. If the Rangers don’t make a move in the standings in the next week, we’ll gather back here at the All-Star break with plenty of serious stuff to break down.

Today, though, I wanted to relate a couple of things I observed over the course of the last road trip. Based on the notes you have sent, you’ll remember it only for what you believe were a couple of nightmarish calls by umpires.

I’ll remember it because it reminded me how young the Rangers really are and what is really important. I mean, I was running into parents of players so often, I expected one mom to tell me she was in charge of snacks that day.

Maybe you’ve read that statistically speaking, the average age on the Rangers roster is less than 26. It makes them the “youngest” team in the majors. If you haven’t read it before, well, now you have.

And for many parents of these players, watching their kids fulfill a life-long goal at the highest level is the height of parental pride. I saw that expression on the face of Ian Kinsler’s parents at the start of spring training, but it’s no different now that the season is halfway over. Howard and Kathy Kinsler flew up from Tucson to Denver to watch Ian play for the weekend. The Rangers lost. The parents won.

It was more of the same in San Francisco, where Jason Botts’ mom, Judy, was basking and where a passel full of Scott Feldman’s family and friends crowded into a section over the bullpen to roar when he came into a game.

Judy Botts brought her parents, lifelong Giants fans and season-ticket holders, to one of the three games. There she presented them with a ball Jason hit during batting practice into McCovey Cove behind right field. Jason had autographed it, thanking his grandfather for instilling a love of baseball in him. Granddad was awestruck.

They were all gathered around the Rangers’ clubhouse after the games and their mood didn’t change regardless of what umpires Larry Young or Tom Hallion said. They were parents and family. They were proud. Feldman’s sister was so excited to have seen her brother pitch at AT&T Park, she was actually shaking.

And for a while, even if you were a Rangers fan and bummed out by the lousy record on the road trip, you couldn’t help but think that there are some things more important than winning and losing baseball games.