Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Take me out to the ballgame.

My job is such a grind! Today I had to take two of my students on a field trip, and we were FORCED to listen to this guy:
When I signed us up for High School Media Day at the Ballpark, we knew we'd get to attend a press conference with a player or two. We had no idea we'd get to hear from the Rangers' new president, Nolan Ryan! What a thrill!

Star-Telegram reporters and photographers first briefed the students about sports journalism and gave some press conference pointers. Then three Rangers VIPs were led to the media room so the students could question them.

Nolan was first, and he talked about how coming to the Rangers front office was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. He discussed the learning curve since he'd been away from this club for a while, and he also shared his enthusiasm for the young guys on this team.

Of course, the students wanted to know about his playing days, too. He talked about pitching no-hitters ("one of those magical days when everything just comes together") and how his teammates helped him achieve those milestones ("My teammates behind me made one or two big plays that made a real difference" in each of those games).

He mentioned his "good friend" President Bush, saying he "respects his passion and love of the game." Nolan said he hopes Bush will return to baseball five or so years after "retiring" from the presidency, a comment that surprised me since I'd never considered that possibility.

Nolan also discussed how he has applied his work ethic to all areas of his life and not just his baseball career.

"My ability to throw a baseball was a God-given gift," he said. "Once I realized that, I tried to make the most of that gift."

He took the same approach to his business career.

"Baseball has given me opportunities in the business world, so I've tried to make the most of those opportunities."

He closed with some advice for the students: "If you enjoy what you do, you're better at what you do."

Next on the podium was rookie David Murphy, an outfielder acquired from the Red Sox in the Gagne trade last season.

My new favorite Ranger was articulate and friendly, not shying away from the tough questions. The big one on everyone's mind: What's it like to leave a team bound for the World Series to end up with the lowly Rangers?

"I'm going to lie if I say I wasn't jealous a little bit," Murphy said about his former teammates.

Still, he could tell he didn't have a future in the Red Sox organization.

"I never felt in my heart that I was going to get the 10- to 12-year big league career there," he said. The chance to come home to Texas and actually get to play provided the window of opportunity he needed. The trade-off (playing time vs. ring) was worth it, he said.

The third guest behind the lectern: former Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg.

Sundberg is now the Rangers' executive vice president for communications and public relations. He seems to be adjusting well to this role, using his experience not only as a player but also as a broadcaster to connect with the media and community.

He said he advises players to always be as honest and open with reporters as they can. Trying to hide from reporters after a bad game only exacerbates the attention or negative vibes, he said.

"I can only think of two articles in my career that were really negative," Sundberg said. "Try to be honest and allow the reporter or writer to do his job... Let the reporter do his job, be honest and direct, and when you mess up, admit fault."

He had advice for owner Tom Hicks, too, reminding him that the Rangers' "fan base wants you to be a caring, responsible owner" who's not dabbling in other ventures like the Liverpool Soccer Club.

Reflecting on his big league career, Sundberg said baseball was "the most grueling, grinding thing." The mental toll was constant because he always had to "manage the fear of failure," he said.

The physical effects of catching all those pitches wore on him, too. He said his shoulders were always tired from absorbing the impact of 90-mph pitches and then throwing the ball back with his other hand.

"I always thought that affected my batting," he said, mentioning the seasons when he felt he could've batted over .300 if he had played a different position.

Sundberg demonstrates how the ball hitting his glove
would also impact his left elbow and shoulder.

He credited his work ethic to his father, a letter carrier who left the house at 5 some mornings when a foot of snow meant he would have to walk instead of drive to work. That work ethic led Sundberg to play regardless of how he felt.

"It doesn't matter if you feel good or not," he said. Not working hard when you're feeling down is a "dangerous trap." He said he particularly dislikes when athletes take themselves out of the line-up because they don't feel 100 percent.

Sundberg also closed with advice for the high schoolers.

"Why kind of just passively go through life?" he asked them. "Find out what you really want to do and do it well. Do it with all your heart."

With those sentiments, the press conference ended and we were off to the rest of our field trip: the Rangers game!

Play ball!

First pitch

All the Rangers and Angels wore number 42 today in honor of Jackie Robinson.
Sixty-one years ago today, Robinson played his first MLB game.

New (and warmer) seats in centerfield

David Murphy at work

The FSN reporter looking for groups to interview

See ya, Nolan! We sure would've liked to have seen you on the mound today!


Jenna said...

What a fun "work" day. I met and had a conversation with President Bush at the ballpark right after Mark and I were marrie. I could have gotten a picture with him, but I saw no purpose in taking a picture with a baseball team owner. He was not even the governor at that point. We discussed how he had a daughter named Jenna.

We have not gone to a game in a while. I love the ballpark, but I am not the biggest baseball fan.

tamandscott said...

How fun!! I played club volleyball with Jim Sunburg's daughter, Audra. It's good to see all of those old guys are still around. That was who was playing when I was a kid and went to the games all the time!

Fun day for you!