May 1974 - I had just turned 6 yrs old. My mom got tickets for our family to go to the old-school Arlington Stadium (that's it). I'd never seen such a site! They were playing the much-hated Yankees. We had great seats and I'll admit it - I was hooked. From then on, most every year my parents took me at (or near) my birthday to see the Rangers play. Year after year, spring training would come and, with high hopes, we'd eagerly look forward to getting to the playoffs - much less the World Series.
June 1976 - I was a Cub Scout. They took us to the game. We got autographs (Pat Corrales! Anybody remember him? I do and I still have that autograph). My mom collected box tops that year and got me an autographed (actually it's stamped) Rangers ball. I still have it. Come to house to see it.
May 1981 - I received some free tickets from someone and convinced my parents to take me and a buddy. We were in the upper deck at the old stadium. They were awful seats and they gave my mom a touch of vertigo, but were there, soaking in life as a Ranger fan.
Summer 1988 - I was in college at Dallas Baptist University. Working at the campus, a friend and I had no girlfriends and nothing promising to do so we went to nearly every home stand over the summer. Sat in the bleachers for $2. Smuggled drinks into the game in our pockets. Parked about 2 miles away to save parking fees. It was awesome! The team wasn't very good, but we had a blast every time. With great enthusiasm, we cheered our Rangers right until they were eliminated.
Summer 1991 - Things had changed for me in a lot of ways, but one constant was the Rangers. I was overwhelmed to have Nolan Ryan (NOLAN RYAN!) pitching for my team. I went to every game (that wasn't on Sunday) he pitched that year.
March 1994 - The "New" stadium opened for visitors. One of my childhood friends, David Ellis, and I went to see the not-yet-opened Ballpark in Arlington. We marched around the stadium for about 2 hours dreaming about games we would see there. And we did.
May 1994 - When the new stadium opened and my bday rolled around, we were there! We had horrid seats - the very top row in the upper deck behind home plate - but I didn't care. We were there and it was awesome.
1996 - Finally, the Rangers made the playoffs. I thought I would explode! Even though we got rolled by the Yankees, we at least got there! Same story in 1998 and 1999 - but we finally got there!
May 2000 - Julie and I got married on May 6, 2000. My bday is May 7. Good timing, no? When I got married, I feared my tradition of games on/around my bday might end. But I married well, my friends. Very well. We honeymooned in Boston. Imagine my surprise when she asked "Are the Red Sox in town - we can't go to Boston and not see a game at Fenway!" YAHTZEE! Thus, the tradition continues. The Rangers are our team, evidenced by the amount of Ranger junk we have around our home.
Oct 2010 - When the Rangers won the ALCS (against the Yankees!), we were at the Tomato Bowl, 12 of us sharing one set of headphones. We held our breath until the game was over and we'd won. Wow. Later that night, after everyone was gone and Julie was asleep, I actually cried. Crazy, I know. But a lifelong love affair with a team affects you deeply! Even though we lost, we had finally won a pennant!
April 2011 - Our son, Joshua, was born. One of his first outfits was a Rangers uniform. He was two days old when we first watched a Ranger game together. Our summer was spent tracking them and watching them win the division, the ALDS, the ALCS and play in the Series. Like me, I hope my son will grow up with them as his team, even if they never get back to the Series.
While my greatest love is for my Lord, my family and my church, the Rangers rank right up there. Some might say "Choose a different team - one with a chance to win!" Sorry, but the die is cast there. I am who the Lord has made me to be and part of that is Ranger Red and Blue. (True, I'm a big Cowboy fan but they've always done well (well, most always). And the Mavericks just won the NBA title. But my first love was always baseball.) I'm not a bandwagon guy, jumping in the with the "team of the day" who is doing well. Thanks just the same - I'll stick with my Rangers. You who have never loved a team like that - you'll never understand. But you'll never know the passion and joy that such can bring. So, until Spring Training and the start of a new year of hopes for the World Series, so long Rangers and thanks for the ride.