It’s been three months since Josh Sborz spiked his glove on a called third strike by home plate umpire Brian Knight. It’s been over 90 days since the iconic calls by television broadcaster Joe Davis and legendary and Hall of Fame voice Eric Nadel. While the world has hit a new year, the Rangers nation remains in a dream of November 1st, 2023, the day that changed the Texas Rangers franchise.
In convening with Rangers’ players who took part in that iconic day, the Championship parade, the entire 2023 season, and the aftermath, some still can’t describe what the 7+ month journey meant to the Texas Rangers fan base. Even Josh Sborz, whose excitement will cement into Rangers history forever, told me it still hasn’t set in what happened, but February means it is time for 2024. I asked him if it felt real months later.
“It’s real now, I guess,” Sborz said. “You watch it enough. It truly hasn’t set in, and I don’t think it will ever set in. But I’m blessed to be able to relive it a lot with cameras these days. It’s still an honor, but two weeks later, I was kind of like, time for the next season.”
If you take a walk or go to the grocery store or any public place in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you’ll likely come across someone wearing everyday Texas Rangers apparel or, better yet, some World Series merchandise. The Rangers hosted their Winter Caravan, and the number of people lining up for autographs, photos, or spectating was staggering.
Nathaniel Lowe and Grant Anderson here at Kroger in North Richland Hills.
— Alex Plinck🏳️🌈 (@aplinckTX) January 28, 2024
“I was talking to some fans [at Fanfest], and they were getting emotional, and I was like, “Oh my gosh,” I get emotional talking about my kids. It’s cool to see how much [the Championship] meant to them. It’s a special group, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Travis Jankowski told me.
“It’s crazy how many fans we’ve affected to bring home that title,” Nathan Eovaldi said. “A lot of fans saying they didn’t know if that would happen and to see that joy on their face,” Eovaldi mentioned, even receiving congratulations from Astros, Rays, Orioles, and Diamondbacks fans.
“This has been the most touching [and] wonderful experience I’ve ever had in my life seeing the joy and pride in the community,” Rangers General Manager Chris Young said. “I’m thankful to our fans for what they’ve given us, the support they’ve shown us, and how touching they’ve made this for us.”
Josh Jung brought the hardware home. Texas boy through and through. pic.twitter.com/IQpeSqP045
— Abby Jones (@_abigaiiiil) February 1, 2024
Young recalled an interaction when he was at the grocery store. One of the workers approached him after the Rangers got swept by the Cleveland Guardians in mid-September, and he told Chris, “Don’t worry about this, we got this. We’re going to be fine.” It was at a time when Young wasn’t entirely sure which direction the team would go and recognized the difficulties. After the World Series, Chris Young returned to that grocery store, saw the man, hugged Chris, and said, “I told you we had this.”
“It was touching,” Chris Young said.
In talking about the Rangers fan base and how much the first World Series title means to the community, Jon Gray told me he underestimated how much it meant. I asked a few other players their thoughts:
“You never know how people are going to react to their stories. It’s awesome when someone stops you and tells you that. To be a part of somebody’s life and experience it, it’s different. It definitely hits home in a different way.” – Corey Seager.
“The weird thing being a part of that kind of thing is cause you’re always preparing for the next, so it always takes a long time to really set in. The season ends, win the World Series, do the parade, well that’s awesome then everyone goes straight into preparing for the next season. It always takes a long time to set in. Seeing the turnout today and parade, the turnout for that, it helps you realize what they meant.” – Jacob deGrom.
“I think the fan base showed how appreciative and how much they wanted this championship, and they showed through the love they gave us, and they were very deserving of this and happy for what we were able to bring to them.” – Adolis García.
“It really is cool seeing how fired up they are, and it’s not just something that comes and goes. It’s not fleeting. It’s going to stick around forever. Some of these people have been waiting their whole lives for this, so it’s very cool to see, and it’s really nice knowing that we are celebrated.” – Jon Gray.
“When you do the first of anything, I feel like it’s pretty special and important. Just seeing how the fans were all year when we hadn’t won a World Series, they were great and rowdy. [I] kind of expected it to be this crazy. [At the Rangers awards dinner] everyone was talking about how they couldn’t go anywhere, and I feel that. But it’s great when we can do something this important for all these people, it’s truly special.” – Jonah Heim
“It hit me during the parade. It’s one of those things for all of us; you know how hard it is to get to a World Series, and it’s not a one-game winner-take-all; it’s a seven-game series. It’s really hard to enjoy winning Game 1, Game 2, [and] Game 3 in a World Series. Yes, you’re excited, but it’s what is next. Next year is no guarantee to get back there, so you want to make the most of it, and you don’t want your hearts broken. I don’t think all of us could take in until the parade happened what we did for this city and how important it was for Arlington, Dallas Fort-Worth to have a World Series Championship and to hold that trophy.” – Travis Jankowski.
“It’s incredible to see the support from the DFW community. I’m a Texan, but I’m not from here. I can remember the Rangers teams when I was growing up, and they weren’t always great, but to see this amount of people showing up for just two guys is pretty special. It’s something we should all be proud of and thankful, and the fans should be very proud as well for showing us support because not every team gets support like this. I think it’s something as a player if makes you feel like what you’re doing is validated and it makes all the hard work; you do it not just for yourself but do it for the fans. You want the fans to enjoy and seem like they’re enjoying it. We’re happy about it.” – Grant Anderson.
In addition to the fans who supported the team, the title means a lot to the former players and the staff who paved the way, which I asked Nathaniel Lowe about.
“The people that put in decades of work to get to this and seeing Tom Grieve and Fergie [Jenkins] and all of those guys that have laid the foundation for us to come through and then getting to work with the people who have been here for decades is really cool,” Lowe said. “They deserve this Championship. We should celebrate it hard, and we’re going to enjoy this coming season.”
While the celebration still sinks in, and the Rangers will raise that banner on Opening Day 2024 against the Chicago Cubs, work remains to do. The Rangers are now the team the other 29 MLB teams are hunting and trying to dethrone. For Jon Gray, going for a second title adds another spark.
“Two titles are undeniable. We definitely want to do that, especially with Houston, and we want to get more than them. We have to get more than them, so we got to get with it.”
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