My love for the Texas Rangers started pretty early in my life. While my mother and biological father divorced when I was young, my mom met my stepdad when I was just four years old. Now, I should add right here that I never did, nor will I ever have any resentment over any of that. In fact, as an adult I'd later reunite with my father, and it was one of the best things I ever did in life. But because of the divorce, it opened the door for another man to step into my life and become the male role model I needed.
I will also add that this might be a tad long, but I ask you to bear with me. It tells a story that I hope many can relate to and can perhaps bring a smile to the faces of many longtime Texas Rangers fans. So, even though it's a bit long, I hope it's worth the read.
Enter Jimmy, a man that told me then, continued to tell me, and still to this day swears that he fell in love with my mother not only because of her, but also because of my little brother (Dominic, or "Dom" as we call him) and me. He has always loved kids and never had any qualms about jumping into an "instant family."
After they married, Dom and I quickly started calling him "Dad," and the word "step" never entered the vocabulary of any of our family. It didn't have to. We were his sons, and he was our dad. Anyone who tried to tell us otherwise was met with resistance, pure misunderstanding, and stubbornness. Honestly, Dom and I didn't know any better, and honestly, we didn't care.
Dom wasn't as much into sports as I was, and Jimmy and I quickly formed a bond over Texas Rangers baseball. Through the years, I started cheering for guys like Pete O'Brien (my first favorite baseball player because I thought he kind of looked like my favorite tv character, Bo Duke from "The Dukes of Hazzard," and because he was pretty good at hitting home runs), Pete Incaviglia (because I thought he looked like my Uncle Johnny ... and because he was really good at hitting home runs), Rubén Sierra (no, he didn't really look like anyone I could think of, but he, too was fantastic at hitting home runs), and Nolan Ryan (because he was Nolan Ryan, and he was only about a month and a half younger than my dad, which we both found pretty cool).
A growing bond and growing disappointment centered around Texas Rangers baseball
Being a kid, I wasn't fully aware of what was taking place at the time, but when it was time for a Ranger game, it was "me and dad time." We'd watch the game together, or in the rare occasion it wasn't televised on HSE (home games on cable as a way to get fans to choose between paying to watch or paying to attend) or KTVT (road games on over-the-air TV), then we'd listen to Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel on WBAP.
Through those years came so much disappointment and anguish. While there were some awesome nuggets here and there with Nolan's 5,000th strikeout, 6th no-hitter (which I watched live on KTVT) and his 7th no-no (which was actually not televised locally, a thing that's now unheard of). We also had Kenny Rogers' perfect game (which I watched from start-to-finish). After that came the playoff teams of '96, '98 and '99.
While the '96 team brought us the joy of making the playoffs for the first time and the incredible October performance of Juan González, the New York Yankees spoiled it and the other two for us. Then came the A-Rod years and a playoff drought.
Life changes and hope in the Texas Rangers
I met my wife Heather in 2004. We married the next year. And although she never fully understood my love for the Rangers, she has always supported it. In fact, for one of our first dates, she splurged and bought some great seats along the first base line for us. While that was far from the only reason, it certainly helped me see she was "the one."
We then had our daughter in 2006. At less than a year old, she accompanied us to a game in 2007. That was a bit of a big deal to me, because she experienced her first game about ten years sooner than I did. Although, I'm not sure she fully appreciated it.
Back on the field, 2010 was special in-and-of-itself with the Rangers making the World Series for the first time. Then, 2011 provided a real dagger to our hearts. At that point, my dad and I both felt as if something had been stolen from us as fans. But that heartache personally faded pretty quickly when my son was born just 32 days after that heartbreaking series had ended.
Texas would return to the playoffs and although we all felt 2015 would be special, that one ended sadly. The next year, 2016 would end even more flatly, and then a new drought started.
But during that time, I reunited with Herb, my biological father. He bonded with my family and me in that time and built such a wonderful and loving relationship in such a short amount of time. He, too was a huge Rangers fan and bonding over games became a thing with him. While baseball still didn't bond me with him (Herb) the way it did to my dad (Jimmy), it certainly endeared us to each other.
*For the record, any referral from here on out to "my dad" is Jimmy, and to "my father" is to Herb (biological father). I apologize if this is a bit confusing*
I'm blessed that we met him when we did. Just a few short years after reuniting with him, my father would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He put up an amazing fight, and I grew so incredibly close to him in that time, as did Heather and the children. But sadly, he passed in November of 2018. To this day, I tell everyone that he didn't "lose" the fight, but rather took cancer out with him. I truly wish we'd had him longer, but I'm eternally grateful for the time we had with him.
Father son baseball bond
It's kind of funny. From 2017 to 2022, I'd tell my family in the preseason, "You know, if the Rangers could just compete this season, I'd be really happy, and I wouldn't be surprised if they do." Over time, that was interpreted as "Daddy thinks the Rangers are gonna win it all this year." Therefore, at the end of every season, with no playoff appearances to show, I'd get the ol' "Maybe they'll win it all next year," from Heather and the kids.
During that time though, my son started getting a little bit more into baseball. In fact, "beesaw" was one of his first words. Granted, for most of those years he had far more interesting things to him in his life like Paw Patrol and Miles From Tomorrowland. But in the past couple of years, he's started getting excited to go to games with his old man and watch games on TV with me. His first favorite ballplayer was Nick Solak. I think it's because he homered at the first game my son remembers going to. He sounds just like his dad!
Prior to this 2023 season though, I said something different. I made the proclamation to my family, "Call me crazy, but I would be shocked if this team DIDN'T make the playoffs." Of course, I once again heard the "Dad, you say that every year" from everyone. But I reiterated that I'd never said they "would" make it, but rather I'd "felt like they might" make it. I also said that this team and this season just felt different. I also, so very badly wanted my son to experience the feel of playoff baseball and the excitement that comes with it.
Then the team got red-hot to start the season. That caught my boy's attention fast. He and I even got to go to the April 23 win over Oakland. He quickly became a fan of Jacob deGrom (who started that day) and Robbie Grossman (who homered that day), and we got cool matching powder blue hoodies!
The bonding between my son and me that took place over the six month stretch of the regular season became something I would have never expected. We'd watch a game while the girls were out of the house or stream it on my phone with the sound off as we did other family things.
When he wasn't talking about his Legend of Zelda games for his Nintendo Switch, we'd talk about the Rangers trading for Aroldis Chapman, Adolis García representing the Rangers in the Home Run Derby, dealing for Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery at the trade deadline, or Evan Carter getting called up. On the Wednesday night of the infamous July 26 showdown with the Astros, I remember picking him up from church and immediately turning on the video of García's grand slam to show him. We both went bonkers with joy!
The two of us became enthralled with the Rangers and we'd call my dad often to talk about recent games with him. The three of us experienced the letdown of the final weekend together, and when my son wasn't around, I'd share with my dad the joys of sharing this with my son. Things were coming full circle as I realized how much he enjoyed watching games with me when I was a boy.
Naturally, through every playoff game and at every poignant moment, my phone would ring. The ID would tell me it's Dad and I'd pick up. Immediately I'd here my dad's excited voice ask, "Steve, are you watchin'? How about that Adolis García!? We're gonna sweep those Astros, I tell you!"
Granted, that didn't happen. And as my hope in the team waned after games three, four, and five, I couldn't help but think back on his optimism. My dad knew in the midst of the ALCS what I knew in the preseason. This team was special.
With each playoff win, I experienced either the joy of high-fiving with my son (Yes, he and I have our own special Rangers high-five and fist bump combo that we do now after ever run scored for the Rangers) or recapping in a detailed note the highlights of the night before if he had to go to bed.
But we did make some bedtime exceptions in the house. For elimination games, bedtime didn't exist. And for World Series games, bedtime didn't exist. Although, he did go to bed early during World Series game two when the outcome became obvious. But other than that, he never missed an ending after ALCS game seven. He and I talked to my dad during and after every World Series win, to the point that we knew, the moment something big happened, my phone would ring. By winning it all, this Texas team brought me something so special on multiple levels.
This past Friday, my son and I celebrated by going to the parade. We had to. It was an amazing father-son moment and brought me full-circle in my fandom to that joy of a kid that I experienced when I saw my first Ranger game in person at age 10. But this was even bigger. We saw the Commissioner's Trophy being hoisted by our favorite players and it was amazing.
I know my situation is a rare one. I've heard so many people share about fathers, grandfathers, mothers, aunts, uncles who they wish they could celebrate this win with. And my heart goes out to those who can't. I, myself do feel that with my father.
But personally, I'm thankful the Rangers waited until now. I'm thankful that I got to experience this with my dad and with my son at an age that he will remember forever. I'm thankful that the three of us all get to share that first Texas Rangers World Series title together. I know not everyone gets to feel that, but I hope that my story at least encourages others. And I hope that they feel the memories and the lifetimes of those lost before them in their hearts, enjoying this win with them. Because without them, we wouldn't be nearly the fans that we are now, would we? So, as we relish the season we just witnessed, make sure we remember them, too. Because those people are the ones that got us here as fans, and we should be forever grateful for that.
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