Do you sometimes catch yourself in a moment of realization, even now, that indeed your 2010 Texas Rangers were in the World Series? You watched it happen. Some of you were even at the games when they happened. But unless you take a stark account, it's almost like it couldn't be. Is it still foreign but fresh? Maybe for some of you it has faded now that the calendar no longer reads the same year as the one in which the miraculous happened. By definition, you, as a sports fan, need more miracles to consume. Now, now, now.
Pause. Stop right here. Take a breath with me and hold it for a moment. The pages of an epic can turn too quickly if you let them.
Remember the first time you heard of the name Neftali Feliz. Was it in a Newberg Report (7/30/07: "Dave Sessions and Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram are reporting that the two pitchers coming back in the deal will be Neftali [not "Nestali"] Feliz")? Was it in the minor details of a press release about the Rangers acquiring a raw arm from Atlanta's advanced rookie league team in Danville, nearly an afterthought, nearer a throw-in? Did you catch wind of him from a glowing note from Kevin Goldstein? What do you remember first? It is important that you remember. You watched as he turned from lottery ticket into life-changing winnings as each ball shot out of the hopper. From Appalachian League hopeful to ALCS Dragon Slayer.
Remember when Edinson Volquez was Neftali Feliz? Remember how Edinson Volquez became American League MVP Josh Hamilton? It's important that you remember because if you don't, the threads start to fray and then the meaning begins to give way.
Maybe the second name you poured over when you heard of that same trade that brought the Rangers Neftali Feliz was Elvis Andrus. You likely thought of the potential of Jarrod Saltalamacchia first, as the headliner, but then you began to acquire more information on the second guy, the young Myrtle Beach shortstop. Somewhere along the way you fell in love with a light-hitting middle infielder. Somewhere between thinking it was pretty cool that the Rangers had gained someone named Elvis and this, you were smitten for life:
Maybe you laugh a little when you wonder if Michael Young ever thinks of Frank Catalanotto.
Maybe you laugh a little when you suddenly remember Darren O'Day in a Kason Gabbard jersey in Toronto. Maybe you smile a little when you think of Darren O'Day coming into a game at a packed Rangers Ballpark.
You probably do smile when you think of Alexi Ogando. How could you not? Remember when he was only a specter on the radar? A mere unceremonious update every offseason of no progress for past transgressions. You could probably do well to never let yourself forget his story. It has to be all by design, right?
I mean, if it isn't by design, how did we get from 1999 Colby Lewis to 2010 Colby Lewis? From great hope to failed prospect to Detroit Tiger to Washington National to Oakland Athletic to Kansas City Royal to Hiroshima Carp to best pitcher for the Texas Rangers in the 2010 postseason on a team that featured the best postseason pitcher in the last 25 years. How did it all align through that decade of failure for both Lewis and the Rangers into such a sweet season of triumph? The gravity of this one person's journey stops me in my tracks. I settle within the inertia. I enjoy my stay.
Maybe you remember the first go-round in 1996 with almost as much revelry. Maybe you make note to remember Oct, 4 1996 when Darren Oliver pitched then the best game in Rangers postseason history. And now, 14 years and seven teams later, you can't help but wonder what it was like to run to the mound from the bullpen in the same stadium knowing you are going to your first World Series as a member of the same team it all began with. If you could, you would be Darren Oliver in that moment for all of your moments.
Or maybe you would be C.J. Wilson's moment of running to the mound from the bullpen that was your home for the previous four seasons while knowing that the next time you are on a baseball pitcher's mound, you do so in the World Series as a starting pitcher. You run out to that dog-pile and you've already won the game.
What do you think it was like to be Vladimir Guerrero and suddenly have that body of a 25 year old again as you fly higher onto the pile as anyone else?
What do you think it was like to be Nelson Cruz watching Vladimir Guerrero fly higher onto the pile as anyone else as you both go to the World Series together, for the first time?
What do you think it was like to be Mitch Moreland and suddenly realize you're in an ALCS Champions celebration and a 25-year-old-again-body-having Vladimir Guerrero is using you for his ascension? What were your first thoughts when you read of Mitch Moreland's skill set? Were you like me? Did you think of Mike Lamb or Travis Metcalf (God rest his soul)? Did you bury him somewhere on your mental depth chart? We watched and waited for Matt Brown, Chris Davis, Justin Smoak, Ryan Garko and Chris Davis again to step forward before Mitch Moreland was allowed to be more than fodder. Now, when you think back, you'll see a path that went from possible Jason Grabowski to perhaps lone hitting World Series hero.
Did you maybe ever think, during your July 2008 celebration, that through the act of divine intervention that made the Houston Astros break the cardinal sin of the MLB draft in drafting for need when they selected a catcher in Jason Castro leaving the Rangers with a polished product in Justin Smoak, that he would someday be used as the only piece possible to acquire the man who would pitch the Rangers to the ALCS and then in that series pitch one of the best games in postseason history? You start to question if it were really so crazy that it all happened. It starts to seem something like destiny. See how fast it goes when you forget to remember the details?
Remember then too that Nolan Ryan went from Texas Ranger legitimizer over 20 years ago to owner of the league champions. Remember when he was a spring training consultant trying to reach Chan Ho Park? Remember someday that Chuck Greenberg didn't take long in fulfilling a promise of stopping this franchise from hitting the snooze bar perpetually. Tom Grieve saw successes unimaginable for an employer he has spent his entire adult life with. Eric Nadel called a Texas Rangers World Series game. We have that. We will always have that.
It cracks me up whenever I think that Ron Washington is going to manage the 2011 All-Star Game. I'm glad now that he wasn't fired when I thought maybe he ought to have been in several different Aprils. I will not forget those sentiments. Accept gladly that Tom Vandergriff saw the Rangers in the World Series before he passed.
It's no longer 2010 as of today. Our Rangers have fully entered defense-of-American-League-Crown mode. But stop. Bask mode doesn't have to end just yet for you and me. Erase present thoughts of Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, Adam Dunn, or Victor Martinez from your mind if only for this moment and think only about this: We get to do it all over again. And this time we ride in style.
We get to buckle in once again for another season of memories and moments. There will be more heartbreak before it's all over. There will be more indescribable moments of soul-lifting joy, as well. We are cumulatively and as a community, as fans, the hearts and souls of the 2010 American League Champion Texas Rangers. And we will be so in 2011 and beyond. It is appropriately time to exhale. As we push our replenished, redefined present to a now more distinguished, more colorful past with real history and elucidation, we are left with an uncertain future but one invigorated by events still radiating within the inspiration for our love of this great game.
So pause now and then. Don't forget 2010. Never let it go. But remember, soon, 162 and then some wait for us. That smile on your face is the same as my own and it is one to remember.