September 2010

The Final Stretch

9-21-10

3 p.m.

 

I’m on my way to the ballpark in Anaheim to play the Angles, my old team. I have such great memories of that 2002 season when we won the World Series. With the Rangers’ magic number at six, there’s nobody on this club who doesn’t believe we’re headed to the playoffs and, we hope, the World Series. We have the players and coaches to get there.

But you have to be careful about making too big of an assumption. You can’t take anything for granted. You have to keep playing with intensity during the last couple weeks of the season, even if the games don’t mean anything, because you want to hit the ground running once the playoffs start. Each series are so short that you don’t have the luxury of ramping up the intensity. It has to be there from the first pitch. And it has to continue for every pitch, every swing, every moment. Not many guys on this team have played the post-season so Vladdy and I and the few that have been there will talk to the younger guys about how one play, one lapse in concentration, can knock you out of the playoffs. Everything gets amplified.

            I don’t worry about this Rangers team on that issue, though. The intensity is there on the field. And maybe that’s because everyone is so loose in the clubhouse. I’ve never been on a team that has more fun. You walk into this clubhouse, and everybody’s joking. They’re talking about what’s on the television or playing cards together. Even guys who seem kind of quiet, like Michael Young, is still joking with everybody. I’ve been in a lot of clubhouses and I’m very, very impressed with these guys. It doesn’t matter what color you are and where you’re from, we’re going to make fun of you and you’re going to make fun of us. It’s like a family.

            If this is my last year of baseball, I’m so glad I’m spending it with these guys. Not only are they a lot of fun, they’re so hungry to win. The lack of hitting in the last few games is probably due more to pressing than to letting our guard down. Hitting is the key to this team. When we hit, we win. Yesterday we pitched well but we couldn’t get anybody home. Pitchers can keep you in a game but only hitters can win it.

Of course, not having Josh Hamilton in the line-up hurts. The whole year he’s been the backbone of this team. He’s such a key part of our success. But we can’t sit back and moan about it. We have to battle and find ways to win without him. It helps that Josh is in the dugout with us, cheering everybody. Just his presence makes a difference.

             We finish up in Anaheim tonight then fly to Oakland for a four-game series. We could clinch in Oakland. We’d rather do it in Arlington but we’ll take it however and wherever we can. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and neighbors from the Bay Area. Jamie is already there with Jayda, so for me this weekend will be a little like being home.

            See you when we’re back in Texas. Thanks for checking in.

Good news

Thanks for all your kind words about Jamie. We got the results from the doctor. There is a growth in Jamies liver about the size of a golf ball, but its not cancerous. They will keep a close on it but they say there is no need for surgery or any other treatment right now.
We are so relieved and grateful.

September Baseball!

            As a baseball player, there’s nothing better than reaching September 1 and knowing every game counts. You’re lucky enough not to be on a team so far back in the standings that you’re just sitting in front of your locker and scheduling the moving van and planning vacation. You’re still in the battle, moving closer every day to securing a spot in the post-season.

            The thing is, right about now you’re also feeling how long the season is. Almost two months in spring training then six months of real games. You’re dragging a little. You’re beat up. So you put in a little extra time in the gym. You do a little more prep work on your opponent. And then you step onto the field, and you hear that crowd, and you know you’re the luckiest guy in the world to be on a team in first place, and a team that is so focused on a single mission:

            To win the World Series.

            Obviously, we have to win the division first, then the League Championship. We know every single pitch, every single inning, every single game is huge at this point. We can’t give up anything. We have to have our A game every day.

            For me, the most fun I have is working with the pitchers on this team. This is an amazing staff. C.J. is incredible. That’s the only word. He’s spotting the ball so well. He can get a hitter out with any pitch he wants. He’s very focused and gets himself very prepared for every game.

            I’ve been asked if it’s different for me catching a very young pitcher vs. a veteran pitcher. The answer is yes and no. The bottom line is that your job as a catcher is to help the pitcher get the hitter out with whatever pitches he has. I ask pitchers what their best two pitches are. I do my homework on each pitcher – what he likes to throw in certain situations.

            But with a rookie, there are times I catch him for the first time when he enters a game – which happened with Michael Kirkman during a game in Baltimore. I had never even caught him in the bullpen. I walked to the mound and asked him for his two best pitches. He said fastball in and out and slider. OK. Great. Then I had to pray that he actually threw what I called – that a fastball away was going to be a fastball away.

            Of course, he’s a terrific young pitcher and he was amazing that game.

            Something else with young pitchers. They know I’m a veteran, so they’re going to trust what I call. They going to go with whatever I say. So if I’m not completely prepared, I can destroy them. I take their trust in me very seriously.

            On another note, I’m asking for a favor. I just came from the doctor’s office with Jamie. She’s been undergoing tests for the past few weeks, and the doctor is saying she might have a tumor on her liver. The latest test results should be back later today or tomorrow. Please say a prayer. Thanks.