Category: MLB (page 1 of 5)

TEXSHAS SHPORTS!

My brother, Keith, and I went to a lot of Texas Rangers games back in the day. We’re ten years apart — but still shared a room and slept in bunk beds until I moved off to college — so during the best of those times I was 18 or 19 years old and he was eight or nine. We’d jump in my “metallic blue” Nissan Hardbody, grab a couple of Ultimate Cheeseburgers at the Jack in the Box on Buckner Boulevard, and fly down I-30 to old Arlington Stadium.

Parking was free when you could find a spot behind a warehouse on Randol Mill, a game program was a dollar — those really were the good old days — and the bleacher seats were five dollars each. Keith and I would usually wind up in the aluminum rows in left field.

And there was a lot of room out there. The teams were terrible — the Rangers were still ten years away from their first division title and first playoff appearance — and attendance was worse. A lot of the time it felt like there were only a few dozen of us in those outfield bleachers. But we went faithfully, as often as we could. We cheered on Bobby Witt and Charlie Hough, Pete O’Brien and Steve Boooooo-chele. Keith named himself the president of the Chad Krueter fan club and we killed time in the late innings of blowout losses by chanting his name.

One night the Rangers were actually winning. I can’t remember who they played or what night of the week it was, but I do remember there were only twelve of us in the left field stands. And one guy about twenty rows up from us was very, very, very drunk and very, very, very loud. He was about as obnoxious as you can imagine — sloppy drunk — and giving everybody in the zip code a running commentary on everything that was happening in the stadium.

In between the eighth and ninth innings, they started running the out of town results across the scoreboard: Yankees beat the Angels. Twins over the Mariners. Giants down the Cards. Astros won.

The Astros won. I can’t remember who they were playing — I’m certain it didn’t matter. But this drunk behind us took notice. The Astros had won, his Rangers were winning, and he took that opportunity to bellow his Lone Star pride. In the sloppiest, spittiest, slurriest way possible, he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Texshas Shports!”

He went on and on — now that I’m writing this I’m afraid it’s probably not as funny as I remember — about the Rangers and Astros and how Texas Sports dominate. No shirt, no shoes, this guy was gross. And he was fired up about his rooting interests in his home state. Cowboys and Oilers, Mavericks and Rockets and Spurs, Rangers and Astros. Everybody’s awesome in Texas and all Texas sports are the best in the history of the universe. “Texshas Shports!”

Last night, at 10:45 pm, my phone lit up with a text from Austin. It was Keith. “Texas Sports.”

Yes, I was rooting for the ‘Stros in their World Series against L.A. The Astros have been my second favorite team for the entirety of my life. It’s always been easy to cheer for Houston. They were in the National League, so no threat to my Rangers. And when they do well it makes Texas look good. It was the same way with the Oilers, they were always my second favorite team. I dreamed of an all-Texas Super Bowl between my Cowboys and Bum’s Oilers, an all-Texas World Series between my Rangers and those rainbow Lastros. Honestly, I’ve got a lot in common with that bum in the Arlington Stadium bleachers.

So, I’m wanting the Astros to win this thing last night, but I’ve got mixed feelings about it today. I’m glad a Texas team upset the heavily favored Dodgers. I secretly felt satisfied that Yu Darvish imploded so historically for L.A. These young Houston ballplayers are fun to watch. How can you not like them? But I’m sick that Houston won a World Series before the Rangers did. I’m still suffering from PTSD relating to 2011. And how do you cheer for a team in the Rangers’ division?

I texted Adam Gray, the long-time Astros fan on our church staff, early this morning: “Congratulations. I wish I knew what it felt like to feel like you felt like last night.”

It looks like the Rangers are in for another three or four year stretch of really bad baseball while the Astros appear poised to contend for several more titles. I have only one consolation today. Texas Sports.

Peace,

Allan

Missing the Boat

With the eyes of the nation riveted on the state of Texas and one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States, the Rangers and Astros are playing their three-game series in Florida? With the Astros players and thousands of Houston-area residents stranded in Dallas, both teams are flying out of DFW to play their series at Tropicana Field? The Rangers and Astros tried yesterday to come up with a plan to play the series in Arlington, but neither side would give any ground on the other’s demands? In the middle of the devastation and loss of property and life, in the middle of this history-altering catastrophe, the Rangers and Astros couldn’t agree on the conditions that would keep the two teams in Texas for this mid-week series?

Pardon the pun: they’re all completely missing the boat.

The series was scheduled for Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday. The Rangers are scheduled to host the Astros in a season-ending three game series in September. So, they could swap the series, right? That’s what the Astros offered. Houston plays in Arlington this week, the Rangers play in Houston at the end of the season. It’s fair, yes? Well, maybe not. That arrangement would have the Rangers playing on the road for twelve straight games to end their year when they’re trying to nail down that second wild-card spot. The Rangers said “no.”

The Rangers offered to let the Astros be the home team in Arlington this week, take the last at bat, and take home all proceeds from the three-games. That would keep the Houston team from having to travel again this week. It would allow them some time to reconnect with family and loved ones who are in Dallas. The Astros said “no.”

Evan Grant, the excellent baseball writer for the Dallas Morning News makes the case here that both teams are doing what is in their own best baseball interests. Maybe. Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle doesn’t give the Rangers any grace, calling the organization “shameful and classless” in her column here. But Sports Illustrated’s Gabriel Baumgaertner is thinking more along the lines here of what I’ve been thinking since the announcement was made last night.

What a waste!

Maybe both teams are acting in their own best interests — Grant makes a good argument. And maybe neither team should be criticized for not giving some real or perceived advantage to a division rival. Maybe. It’s not personal, it’s business.

But I can’t get past the tremendous opportunity here that’s being missed. Imagine the possibilities if the Astros and Rangers played three games against each other today, tomorrow, and Thursday in Arlington. Picture it.

Maybe both teams wear Astros caps during the game to show their unity and humanity. No, better, they all wear City of Houston hats, Houston Fire Department hats, Houston Police Department hats. Maybe the Astros bat last. Maybe they let everybody in for free with a Drivers License from the zip codes in the affected 50 counties. Maybe all the proceeds go to hurricane relief efforts. Maybe Willie Nelson sings the National Anthem and Beyoncé performs God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch. Maybe the two mayors throw out the opening pitch. Maybe there’s a huge Twitter promotion in which fans in Rangers jerseys and Astros jerseys take pictures together. Maybe a post game concert with Texas performers, raising money for relief, after the finale on Thursday. When the eyes of the nation are on a devastated Texas, imagine the good will generated for both teams. Imagine the shaping of the perception of our state. Imagine the funds raised for Houston. Imagine the unity, the coming together for something bigger than baseball, something more important than business.

Imagine the energy in the jam-packed stadium. It would be the lead story on SportsCenter for three straight nights. The Rangers and Astros would be featured in every local and national sportscast for three straight nights. When the documentaries and feature films are made about Hurricane Harvey, these three nights of baseball-healing in Texas would be somewhere in the script. This series would live on for decades, reminding us how sports bring people together, how sports function as community, how sports can bring out the best in people.

Just imagine.

I don’t know what Jerry Wayne is going to do Thursday. He’s hosting the Houston Texans at The Star in Frisco this week, allowing them to practice at the Cowboys facilities. And they’ve moved their pre-season finale between the Cowboys and Texans from Houston to Arlington. The Cowboys are giving all the proceeds from the game — parking, concessions, tickets, everything — to the Houston Texans. There might be a commemorative patch on both teams’ uniforms. There will probably be some special Texas-themed performers before and after the game. Jerry will probably make some huge donation to the Salvation Army for Houston flood relief. Maybe he’ll think to sell those game-worn jerseys to raise money for southeast Texas. Whatever he does with this opportunity, you can bet he’ll do it right.

It would have really been cool to have the Rangers and Astros playing at the same time across the street.

God bless Texas,

Allan

Road Trip with Whit-Pit

We waited until it was a million degrees outside and the Rangers were four thousand games out of first place, but Whitney and I finally made our annual road trip to Arlington to take in a game together this past Friday night. As always, we hit the Golden Chick in Childress, grabbed some chocolate covered pecans in Chilicothe, and enjoyed a huge dinner at Pappasito’s before the game. Cole Hamels went six strong innings, hit the showers with a 6-0 lead, and then Texas held on in a nail-biter 6-4. Thanks to the Rangers’ train wreck of a bullpen, the Astros brought the tying run to the plate in each of the last two innings. And, due to the above-and-beyond efforts of the staff at the pro-shop with their walkie-talkies, we tracked down the very last Joey Gallo t-shirt/jersey in Whitney’s size in the whole stadium!

We were treated to a wonderful bonus when Chuck Morgan announced that the actual Pudge Rodriguez Hall of Fame plaque from Cooperstown was available for viewing and pictures in the first base concourse. Apparently they very rarely ever take a plaque from the Hall of Fame. But with Pudge’s number being retired by the Rangers in an on-field ceremony Saturday, they allowed it to be brought down for the celebration and put on display the night before. We waited in line for a half-inning to see it up close. Very cool.

And this surprising revelation: I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK for the Astros to be in the same division with the Rangers.

When Bud Selig ramrodded this thing five years ago — MLB paid the Astros’ new owner $70-million to switch leagues so every division would have the same number of teams — I was more than a little upset. As a baseball fan growing up in Texas, you dream of a Rangers-Astros World Series. The Rangers are your favorite team, but the Astros are your second favorite team. You root for Houston. You want to see them do well. You keep up with their players. Bagwell, Biggio, and Berkman. Larry Dierker. The rainbow unis. The dreadful dome. Enron and Minute Maid Park. It was always good to cheer for the Lastros because, being in the other league, they posed no threat to the Rangers. And they were a Texas team. You always root for Texas teams.

That all changed in 2013. You can’t root for a team in your own division — you need them to lose every night. What do I do with these old Astros’ shirts and bobbleheads and ashtrays and commemorative cups? Major League Baseball claimed it would ignite a fierce inter-state rivalry. I didn’t see how.

Now, I do. The past four seasons, as the Rangers owned the ‘Stros and won division titles and dominated the Silver Boot, it felt kind of flat, kind of one-sided. This season, though, as Houston has run away with the West and put up football scores on all their opponents, it feels different.

It’s no secret that the cities of Dallas and Houston have a long and storied rivalry. People from both cities insult the people, the culture, the food, the music, and the sports teams from the other city. Coupled with the Rangers’ early dominance, this surge by the Astros has fueled some sincere animosity. Have you noticed? Rangers-Astros games get chippy early. It was so one-sided on the diamond for those first four years and the Houston frustration was so built up that now it’s exploding into something noticeable. The frustration is being expelled and expressed with an exuberance that causes players and managers from both teams to want to pitch inside and slide into second spikes-up. You can feel it.

There are enough people from North Texas who have transplanted down to Houston and enough folks from the Bayou who’ve made their way to Dallas-Fort Worth that, when the Rangers and Astros play each other, the stadiums are almost equally split between the two teams. Rangers and Astros fans work together, live in the same neighborhoods together, go to church together — they see each other all the time. So the rivalry is fierce, yes. But we all live in Texas. We all have our history and culture and love of the Lone Star State in common. So we can get really worked up during the game, and laugh about it, take pictures together, and wish everybody well when it’s over. I love that.

My Astros shirts have remained in the back of my closet for the past five years. I haven’t worn them at all. Not once. Not since 2012. But with the Rangers 16-games back and out of it and with Houston making a run for their first ever World Series title, it’s going to happen. I’ll be rooting for the ‘Stros all the way. And, yeah, their success makes the rivalry even a little better.

Peace,

Allan

The Closing Prayer

Carter Karels was a cute little middle school kid in our youth group at Legacy when our family arrived in Northeast Tarrant County in 2007. He knew then he wanted to be a sportswriter. Now today, after a couple of key internships, a successful stint as the sports editor at Texas A&M’s Battalion, and a few medium-profile run-ins with SEC football coaches, Carter is a sports reporter for USA Today. His very first story, on the season-ending injury to the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect, can be found here. He’s also written a popular profile of Yankees star slugger Aaron Judge, which can be accessed here. Congratulations, Carter! I’m very proud of you, man. And I know your dad is probably impossible to live with now…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“May God himself, the God of Peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

As a family formed by the future, it’s appropriate that Paul would end his letter to the Thessalonian church in Jason’s house by pointing them again to what is to come: the finished work of our God.

Sanctification, the continual process of being made holy, is both a gift from God and a goal. It is both experienced right now and still to be accomplished. Holiness is given to disciples of Jesus at the point of conversion, when we pass from death to life and become new creations in Christ. But it is also a goal that we strive to live out in our daily lives. This life of discipleship to our Lord is “between the times,” because he hasn’t finished yet what he began.

But he will.

During this short letter, Paul has talked a lot about himself and the church in Thessalonica. But his closing prayer reminds us that all of it is truly about our God. The last thing Paul wants on his hearers’ minds is our God, the One who has called us and saved us in Christ Jesus, the One who gives us his Spirit in power and holiness, and the One who will bring us into his Kingdom and glory when Jesus returns.

Paul wants to reassure us, he wants to remind us, that not only is God able to do all that he has promised, but because he is trustworthy and reliable, he will in fact do it. Our future rests entirely in the power and faithfulness of God. And that should inform and enable us to live lives of power and faithfulness ourselves as we wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Peace,

Allan

Play Ball, Amarillo!

It’s a done deal! It’s really happening! A 30-year stadium deal has been signed and the press conferences have been held! The San Antonio Missions of the historic Texas League are moving to Amarillo for the 2019 season, bringing professional affiliated baseball back to the panhandle for the first time since 1982!

Yes, those above sentences deserve all those exclamation points! Professional baseball in a brand new $45.5-million stadium in downtown Amarillo? Seventy home games in a city that cools off to the 70s and lower 80s when the sun goes down? Real minor league baseball just three miles from my office in this church building? The Rangers AA affiliate, the Frisco Roughriders, playing two or three series per year in my city?

There are only 30 of these teams in the entire world and this significant one from this prestigious league is moving here!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Right now the team is affiliated with the San Diego Padres — that could change, but it’s not likely. The AAA team in Colorado Springs is moving to San Antonio and will take over the Missions nickname. Our new team, the current Missions, will hold some kind of a naming contest to determine the moniker for our local club.

We can’t go with alliteration because all the “A” words are stupid. I don’t want it to be some really generic name like Eagles or Bulldogs or Tigers. It would be cool if it were a panhandle-particular animal, but the rattlesnake has already been used to death by bush league teams here and the prairie dog just sounds weird. I’m scared to death the name is going to wind up being weather-related.

But that’s later.

Today, we celebrate the official return of real, genuine, professional, affiliated baseball to Amarillo!

Peace,

Allan

Game Seven & Sunrise Over Galilee

I have spent five nights on two different occasions sleeping on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and each of those times I have set my alarm so I can be up and out and sitting on the banks as the sun rises above this sacred place. This morning, my sixth morning in Tiberias, my alarm went off at 5:00am and I began to get ready to go outside when I was reminded that Game Seven had probably just concluded (we’re seven hours ahead of Texas time). I thought I would just check the final on ESPN.com and head out.

Well, it was 6-4 Cubs in the bottom of the 8th.

So I thought I would run through all the channels on the TV just in case some station here in Israel might be broadcasting it. What are the odds? I really thought there was no way.

cubstvcubswin2Until I found it on an all sports TV station out of Haifa, Channel 5. There it was: The World Series Game Seven. In Hebrew. They were picking up the feed from Fox and turning all the audio down so their broadcasters could call the game in Hebrew. Very strange. No crowd noise. The crawl at the bottom of the screen was going from left to right — very disturbing. And the announcers were consistently a step or two behind what the cameras were showing. I was able to pick out the teams’ cities and mascots, proper names, and, every now and then, a word like “slider” or “homerun.” But the language and time zone differences didn’t matter a bit. This was baseball! And baseball transcends all those trivial circumstances.

The very first batter I saw was Rajai Davis who hit the game-tying two-run tater. I watched it, mesmerized. The 9th inning came and went. Extras! Now what?

Rain delay. No! Now I’ve missed the sunrise. Now I’m ten minutes late for breakfast. The Cubs cream Indians pitching to score two in the 10th. Cleveland cuts the lead in half but can’t come all the way back and for the first time since 1908 the Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions.

And it’s on to Korazim and Caesarea Philippi.

Peace,

Allan

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