Over an hour after the end of the game, it's still sweet to type this sentence: The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series! But believe me, it rolls sweetly off the fingers...
I've been a Rangers fan for the past 24 years, or at least that's when I attended my first game (against these Yankees; I looked it up). A few years in, I got to enjoy the thrill of the Nolan Ryan era, when people decided which games to attend by which night he was on the mound. Later on, I enjoyed the thrill of a brand-new ballpark and the first playoff years. And other times, I spent many hours watching some mediocre teams, and a few outright bad ones. Also--being one of those who enjoys baseball on TV and radio, not just in person--the team has seen me through many a night off and more than a few long drives. I may have grown up an Astros fan, but the Rangers integrated themselves into the fiber of my being as an adult.
When the final out was imminent, I turned down the TV sound and cranked KRLD on the clock radio from the next room; Eric Nadel deserved to be the one I heard make the final call. I was on my feet for that entire last at-bat, just like everyone in the ballpark, and I did my share of jumping up and down at game's end. (And how sweet was it that A-Rod struck out to end the game! As a friend of mine commented on Facebook, A-Rod finally sent the Rangers to the World Series. Nice.)
Did I tear up a bit when all this went down? You bet. But not right away; I was (literally) jumping for joy at first. What got me was the postgame interview with series MVP Josh Hamilton; of course, he started out by praising God, and right after that, he deflected all the credit to his teammates, and it hit me that Nolan Ryan had done the exact same thing after the game where he got his 5,000th strikeout (a game I had the privilege to attend). And now Nolan is co-owner and team president, and it sure seems that the team-first attitude is being taught from the top of the organization. Not only is it great to see our team win the pennant, but it's great to see this team do it; from all indications, they're a bunch of stand-up guys.
When Rangers Ballpark was being built, I was finishing up my stint at KNTU, for whom I'd occasionally go and report on a game. As I watched the structure take shape, I made a few promises to myself: 1) I would be there on opening night. 2) I would be at the All-Star game whenever it was held there. 3) I would be at the first playoff game hosted there. And in due time, all these things came true. But now, with the World Series coming to Arlington next weekend, I'll probably need a lottery win in order to get tickets (if only I'd had the $75 to spare a week ago when tickets went on sale!). But maybe this will come through as well; I have a week to get things together.
As I went on a late-night grocery run after the game, a couple of kids joyfully ran ahead of me into the store, shouting happily. One of them looked back and me and said, "Woooo, Rangers." My reply: "You got that right; I've been waiting for this since before you were born." No matter what happens next weekend, I'm going to enjoy this moment for a while.