This morning I raise a mug of caffeine to Juan Gonzalez and Fergie Jenkins, and all other Texas Rangers who did great things here.
To Chris Davis and Jason Botts and Dan Peltier, and everyone else on that spectrum of players I doggedly dreamed would do the same.
To Jurickson Profar and Connor Sadzeck, and the rest on whom I now pin those dreams.
I single those seven out, this morning, because each of them had a number 19 under their name on their Rangers- (or Riders-) issue whites or grays or baby blues, and while I’m at it here’s to Seth Rosin and Hector Noesi as well.
I zero in on 19 today because it’s a birthday of sorts.
On May 25, 1998, 19 years ago today, I typed something that began “Texas signed Ricky Pickett to a AAA contract today,” a 342-word effort about a Fort Worth native who had two-thirds of an inning of big league experience, that is, 342 words plus a banal handful of exclamation points, all of which was inspired by and written with nothing but a hardcore baseball fan’s seemingly inextinguishable supply of genuine hope.
It went out to, I think, eight people.
Pickett, who’s about my age, would log 80 innings for AAA Oklahoma that season and another 55.1 the next year, the final chapters of his eight-season professional career.
I would log approximately 80 trillion emails after that one, that first one. My math could be off a bit on the total, but not the date. Today is the 19th anniversary of the Newberg Report.
We didn’t have kids yet and, three and a half years into the practice of law, I knew I needed some sort of outlet from the intensity of the job. I’d been initiating a weekly Cowboys email roundtable at work, involving probably a third of the 130 lawyers at Vial Hamilton, but baseball was really what I wanted to toss thoughts around on. The farm system got relatively little local coverage back then, so I started writing about Jeff Zimmerman and Shawn Gallagher and Ruben Mateo and Doug Davis.
And Ricky Pickett.
On May 25, 1998, Jon Daniels was in college and Adrian Beltre was in AA (at age 19) and Nolan Ryan wasn’t yet in the Hall of Fame. Future President George W. Bush and Hillcrest High School grad Rusty Rose led a group that still owned the Rangers. They were weeks away from selling the franchise to Tom Hicks, and Texas was days away from drafting Carlos Pena and Barry Zito and Andy Pratt and Jimmy Rollins’s kid brother Antwon, whose run as a rap artist and filmmaker has lasted longer than his baseball career.
It was Bill Haselman’s 32nd birthday, and that night he would pinch-hit for Gonzalez in a 9–3 loss to the Twins, freezing Gonzalez’s slash line for the time at .312/.347/.589, short of his season-ending line of .318/.366/.630 that helped him earn a second League MVP award in three seasons. He memorably reached 101 RBI by the All-Star Break.
I wrote one time during that Break, about Brandon Knight and Warren Morris and Cesar King. That was Report Number 25.
That May 25, 1998 loss was Gonzalez’s 999th big league game, not including the four he’d played in October 1996, when he hit five home runs (and two singles) in four playoff games, striking out twice in 19 trips en route to a .438/.526/1.375 slash line in what was this franchise’s first-ever experience with 162+.
But man, just wait until Mateo and Zimmerman and Jason Romano and Kelly Dransfeldt get here . . . .
The Rangers would reach the playoffs again that year (Yankees prey) and the year after that (Yankees prey), not tasting post-season ball again until 2010, when they would fittingly slay the Yankees to earn admission to their first World Series.
I was still writing then, which I would have been crazy to imagine back in 1998.
Since the morning I wrote about Ricky Pickett, the Rangers have played 3,076 regular-season big league baseball games, and another 49 of them in the post-season, 12 of which were awesomely played when only two teams were still standing.
More than 30,000 people have subscribed to Scott’s and my emails since those first eight. Over 38,000 follow on Twitter. There are 18 published books, and an e-Book. It’s all weird to me.
I don’t have an exact exit strategy in mind (for the moment I count four possibilities). All I know is that there’s a game tonight, and I might (or might not) feel like writing about it tomorrow.
Or about Jurickson (hitter).
Or about Jairo Beras (pitcher?).
Or about Shohei (both).
It might be in the form of a run-on sentence or an insanely bad reduction of a fake conversation between one club’s GM and another’s first base coach.
It might be one word, or 4,000.
It might be about Anderson Tejeda, third on Low A Hickory in home runs and leading the club in walks and doubles, even though at 19 he’s two-and-a-half years young for the South Atlantic League.
Tejeda was born three weeks before the Newberg Report was.
So here’s to Juando and to Peltier.
To Profar and to Sadzeck.
To Ricky Pickett.
But mostly to you guys, who have kept me at this for 19 years. I really do appreciate it.