Friday the Thirteenth:
Exorcise Yanks finale,
And to further commemorate the spirit of the day: Here comes Chucky.
Yesterday morning, every Major League owner approved the sale of the Rangers to the investment group headed by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan and financially backboned by Bob Simpson and Ray Davis. It was a welcome moment of unanimity, and finality, completing a lengthy process that had so little of either.
Tonight's series opener against Boston will mark the first official game of the Rangers Baseball Express era, but before that Greenberg will announce various ballpark initiatives focused on improving the fan experience, improvements that he and the ownership group were probably ready to put in place Opening Day.
Fortunately, the atmosphere tonight and this weekend will feel in some ways like Opening Day, in other ways even better. The annual promise of a great season is still there nearly three-quarters of the way through, and for once the confidence is justified, not ridiculed. Attendance is spiking, viewership is breaking local records, and the buzz is swelling.
I'm sure the team is more resilient and more forgetful than I am, and was able to erase Wednesday night's mess from short-term memory on yesterday's day off. A lousy loss is still just a loss, and even the best teams in baseball lose more than a couple games a week, on average. I need to keep reminding myself of that.
I looked back this morning on what I'd led off with on August 13 in past years of doing the Newberg Report:
1998: Julio Santana's impressive run of starts for Tampa Bay and a great Oklahoma start by current RedHawks pitching coach Terry Clark
1999: Promotions for Danny Kolb (Texas), Corey Lee (AAA), and Hank Woodman (AA)
2000: Gabe Kapler breaking the franchise hit streak record
2001: The awfulness of the (Rob) Bell Curve
2002: The Union's decision not to set a strike date
2003: A great Juan Dominguez start (in a game that Texas lost, dropping the club to 20 games back in the West)
2004: Didn't write (Max was born the next day)
2005: Didn't write (but the day before: "What an awful baseball week. You go into Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium and score 26 runs in four games and lose every one of them," and a reminder that the front office had preached "managed expectations" over the winter)
2006: A recounting of the 1996 Dave Valle clubhouse story
2007 (two weeks after the trades of Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagné, and Kenny Lofton): A photo of John Danks, Chris Young, and Thomas Diamond from a 2005 Newberg Report event, and how whatever we might have envisioned then about the 2007 season turned out dead wrong
2008: A recap of one of the two of three greatest minor league games I'd ever seen pitched - a Derek Holland effort for Frisco that night with a line score that looks in retrospect like a Cliff Lee start (other than those Holland 97's that lit up the radar guns)
2009: How well the Rangers' number seven, eight, and 10 starters (Holland, Tommy Hunter, and Dustin Nippert) pitched in the previous three games
A lot of mid-August attempts to distract myself from what was going on with the big club. Not necessary this year.
It's pretty cool that whatever Rangers Baseball Express rolls out today won't be gimmicks to try and get people to think about coming out to the Ballpark, but instead improvements for those who are already filling the stadium and anyone else ready to jump on board for should be a memorable stretch run.
Speaking of which, Jeff & Cindy Kuster, on behalf of the Hello Win Column Fund, are making available 128 tickets to upcoming Rangers games in a fundraising effort to help a local family that has been touched by a battle with cancer. They will use the money raised from the sale of these tickets, along with money raised at Newberg Night last month, to help single mother Maria Aldana and her four children find a new home. Maria was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2008 and has been undergoing treatment. Her present home is in such poor shape that the costs to repair it would exceed the value of the home.
The Kuster's are selling the tickets (face value $70) for $50 each, with the full amount going to the Hello Win Column Fund. All the seats are located in the Lexus Club Infield (Sections 222-230). Here are the available games:
Thursday, August 26 vs. Minnesota at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets
Friday, August 27 vs. Oakland at 7:05 PM (Postgame Fireworks): 8 Tickets
Saturday, August 28 vs. Oakland at 7:05 PM (Mercy Me Pregame Concert): 48 tickets
Tuesday, September 14 vs. Detroit at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets
Wednesday, September 15 vs. Detroit at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets
Thursday, September 30 vs. LA Angels at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets
Friday, October 1 vs. LA Angels at 7:05 PM (Postgame Fireworks): 24 Tickets
Saturday, October 2 vs. LA Angels at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets
Sunday, October 3 vs. LA Angels at 2:05 PM: 8 Tickets
If you're interested, email Jeff at Jeff@hellowincolumn.com. Let him know what date and how many tickets you would like and he'll let you know whether the tickets are still available and details on how to pay.
In the meantime, Jarrod Saltalamacchia comes to town tonight as the latest member of the Darnell McDonald-Ryan Kalish-Daniel Nava Big Boston Debut Club, after doubling twice in four at-bats yesterday (he'd entered Wednesday's game as a late-inning defensive replacement). If he gets tonight's start, he'll catch Josh Beckett and face Hunter, who joined the Rangers organization two weeks before Saltalamacchia did back in July of 2007, a month of renewed hope for a franchise that's now turning hope into promise.
Tonight will be another symbolic moment in that process, as Greenberg and Ryan and Simpson and Davis take their seats as official owners of the team, seats in a building that will be almost fully occupied not because of anything happening off the field (in fact, despite it), but because of what this baseball team has proven these last four and a half months that it is, and just might be.
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(c) Jamey Newberg