The 2019 Texas Rangers season brought an entirely new dynamic into my world. I became a credentialed media member with a blog and podcast on Dallas Sports Nation.
When the 2018 season came to an end, DSN and I began our journey together. The first blog post I wrote dealt with the rebuild of the Rangers. In the process of covering the offseason, I took over the Rangers Nation Podcast. As a lifelong Ranger fan, I was having a blast. Little did I know there was something even better on the horizon.
It was suggested by the DSN management that we try for credentials. It seemed farfetched (to me), but in January we reached out to the Rangers.
Dallas Sports Nation Founder/Owner Rick Wegryn was asked why he thought this was a good idea. He responded, “I wasn’t exactly sure when would be the right or wrong time. I just knew that we had a stable team of bloggers and contributors that have a passion for the Texas Rangers and we have the platform to provide insight on the team. I have always truly believed that anyone that we bring on board has the ability to be a press member or cover the team on a daily basis – only a matter of putting them in the right spots”.
While waiting for a response from the Rangers, I personally reached out to the Frisco Roughriders. The AA affiliate for the Rangers got back with me immediately. Ryan Rouillard, head of their media relations, approved Dallas Sports Nation after seeing the website and podcast. This was the first time I let the thought of a major league credential enter my brain. I now believed this was an actual possibility.
I attended media day in Frisco as my first official function. At that time I met Sean Bass of The Ticket. Sean introduced me to other members and we proceeded to the field. We met the opening day roster of the Roughriders. It’s a bit intimidating to stick a microphone in front of a player who was on your prospect list. But that’s exactly what happened when Joe Palumbo, Brock Burke, and Jonathan Hernandez were made available. Little did I know, they would all three ends the season in Arlington. There was still no indication that I myself would end up in Arlington. But my fingers were crossed.
What started as an email in January ended with approval by the Rangers in March. Joe Carillo and I submitted potential dates we would like to attend and waited. On April 10th we both got word that we were approved. April 12th I attended my first Ranger game as a credentialed media member. The Rangers were hosting the Oakland Athletics and lost 8-6. To say I was nervous is an understatement.
My First Game
Not really sure what time to arrive at the ballpark, I showed up around 4 pm. It turns out this is late. If you get there at about 2:45 the clubhouse is open for player interviews and then you go to Chris Woodward’s office. I was too late for this the first game. When I walk through the glass doors into the press box I notice a few of my favorite Ranger writers. T.R. Sullivan is talking with Levi Weaver. I set up my computer right behind T.R. and listen to the conversation. They are discussing the top 30 all-time Rangers.
Apparently, Weaver is putting something together for The Athletic. I throw out a name that T.R. agrees with. He turns to see who I am and says, “You are sitting in John Blake’s seat”. DOH! I guess I am not going to be welcomed immediately into the fraternity. I grab my stuff and proceed about four seats down. I introduce myself to Weaver. He is friendly and we talk a bit. I notice C.J. Nitkowski walking around and go introduce myself to him. He had been on my podcast and we knew each other’s name.
During this conversation, I realize my press credential allows me access to the field, clubhouse, etc… wow. I return to my computer to soak it all in. All of a sudden the writers get up and start heading for the elevator. I ask if I can come and Levi gets a puzzled look and says, “Yeah if you want to”. I follow them all to the Rangers dugout where Mark Texiera is going to be talking with the press. That’s where I got this little video. Then it’s back to the press box for the game.
Cheering is not allowed in the press box. Definitely difficult for a real fan, but I am not going to mess with the fact I am there. Most of the game I am keeping score and making notes. Unlike the minor league games, I notice nobody is packing things up at the end of game. The last out happens and I wait patiently for someone to make a move.
Then it happens suddenly.
Evan, T.R., Jeff, and Levi head towards the elevators. I follow and keep my mouth shut. We go to Woody’s press conference in the press room. Once Woodward is finished we head to the locker room. I have no clue what I am doing. I follow them all to the different players who give their thoughts on the game. Once we clear the clubhouse it’s back up to the press box. The writers are busy at their computers getting out of their copy. I pack my things and head to the car. What a night.
The Rest Of The Year
I ended up covering around 30 games for the 2019 Texas Rangers season. Throughout the season I built confidence and actually got to know a lot of people. I have decided to list a few people I met and give you my impression of them. If you are a true Rangers fan, then you know every one of them. I also had a few brushes with greatness. Here we go.
T.R. is intimidating when you first meet him. He is no-nonsense and a complete encyclopedia of baseball knowledge. If any conversation was about past Ranger teams, he could spit out the answers like a computer. Sullivan also has a foul mouth when upset. It’s not crass. In fact, it’s almost endearing. He never curses at anyone unless he is being funny. But he will blurt out the occasional F#CK! when his computer acts up. This is met with giggles from those who know him. It turns out that T.R. also has a son named John, who happens to share my exact birthday. However, he is quick to tell me that there is only one John and I ain’t him. As a dad, I appreciate this the most about him. Yep, I am a big fan of T.R. He is also very helpful if you need it. My favorite T.R. moment: Someone asked him if he would stay on Twitter or social media after he retires. His response was classic. “There is a lake on the Texas/Oklahoma border called Lake Texoma. The day after I retire, I am taking a boat out into the middle of it and dropping my f#cking phone and computer in it”.
Emily Jones McCoy
How do you not love Emily if you follow the Rangers. Most of us see her on our TV screens. I was lucky enough to meet her around the press box. I learned a couple of things about Emily. She seems like a woman who probably had more guy friends than girlfriends growing up. Because she can dish it out with the best of them. The other thing I learned is that she is adored by everyone. Nobody seems to dislike Emily. She was also very friendly to me. Emily goes non-stop until the game starts. Nobody deserves A/C more than she does. My favorite Emily moment: Before one game there was a pre-game press conference. T.R. noticed John Rhadigan was there along with Emily. He innocently asked, “Are you working today Emily”? Emily’s eyes got big and she come back was awesome. “F#CK YOU T.R.!…….. YES, I AM WORKING”! He replied, “Well then why the hell is Rhads here”? She shot back, “Have you ever heard of the pre-game or post-game”? After learning that neither was upset with the other, I laughed hysterically. You gotta love Emily.
Although T.R. Sullivan has been there the longest, Evan seems like the host of the press box. He goes around greeting the other team’s media. He is also quick to say hello to anyone in the press box. He is laser-focused on his job though. When we get to the clubhouse, he is an all-for-yourself kind of guy. He goes after who he wants and not the popular choice. He sometimes stays behind to talk to a player after we all have left. Those questions are not for the rest of us. He is working a different angle and doesn’t want us to know. My favorite Evan moment: Evan genuinely cares for others. One time there was a day game and a writer who I will not name was late. He had assumed it was a night game. Once the writer arrived you could tell he was pissed and a bit stressed. Evan came over and offered to send him all his notes from the pre-game interviews in the clubhouse. He was looking out for his fellow writers.
C.J. came on the podcast before the season started. When I came to my first game, he showed me around and told me where my credentials got me. He was the first guy to know who my name was. When he would see me, he would actually say my name and ask how things were going. Eventually, others knew my name, but he was the first. My favorite C.J. moment: I worked the game that was on my birthday. C.J. and I have become Facebook friends. He apparently saw it was my birthday. He came up and said, “What are you doing here birthday boy”? That lead to a conversation about the wife letting me spend my birthday at the park and then head to a weekend hunting trip with the guys. He honestly cared about what was on my plate. That’s cool.
Through Nitkowski, I met Dave. We sat and ate together at a pre-game meal. Dave introduced himself like I may not know who he was; I still giggle at that. Dave is another absolutely nice guy. I mean he is genuinely just a good dude. He remembered my name from that first introduction and always said it when he greeted me. My favorite Dave moment: Dave and I had worked a game together and talked about upcoming plans. I was coaching my son in baseball and he had family plans. The next game we worked, he asked how my son’s game went. Remembering my name is one thing. Remembering that I was coaching little league is on another level. That’s someone who gives a damn about you.
Levi is the one I probably got to know the best. I sat in nearest proximity to Levi and T.R. all season, and that is how you really get to know a person. Levi is one of the most interesting dudes I’ve met. He is a country boy who became a recording artist and baseball writer. Our conversations were fascinating. He had stories that were captivating. His love for his family is endearing to another family man. He also was helpful to a rookie media guy and came on the podcast. My favorite Levi memory: I came to Levi about a story idea. I had info on Brock Burke being a sleepwalker and just felt that I didn’t have the resources to follow up on it. Levi wrote a great story. It got a lot of attention and so did my podcast. He referenced me as the source. I know that it is just journalistic integrity, but it was still cool. Thanks, man.
I also met many others who you know. They don’t know my name, but they know my face. That list includes Chuck Morgan, Tom Grieve, Jared Sandler, Mike Bascik, David Murphy, Jeff Wilson, Dana Larson and of course Eric Nadel.
I have also rubbed shoulders with Hall of Famers and big names who work with other teams. Once when getting a Diet Coke, I got in the way of Jim Palmer who then bumped into me. Buck Showalter sat at the table next to me for a pre-game meal. So has Kirk Gibson, Rick Manning, and Pudge.
I sat at the lockers of every player who was on the major league roster. They were all professional and great guys. Of course, there are times when they aren’t. You have to remember that if someone came to your work to ask you about your screwups, you might be irritated. However, they are always helpful and do answer the questions.
To say it has been cool is quite the understatement. It has been like a dream come true. Meeting people with some celebrity status is obviously awesome. Having them look at you as a colleague, is just weird. Jim Palmer apologized to me; when I had gotten in his way. It has all been a bit mind-blowing to me.
One more thing before I sign off. I have to thank all of you. You listen to the podcast and go to the website for your sports. Without all of you, this isn’t possible. So from the bottom of my heart and from everyone at Dallas Sports Nation, Thank You!!
Features Image: John Moore/Dallas Sports Nation