Detroit’s Brandon Inge was the final hope for the Tigers in game six of the 2011 American League Championship Series.
“Hope” might’ve been a stretch. Inge’s team trailed 15-5 after an inspired all-around performance from the host Texas Rangers, playing in their second straight ALCS.
Texas closer Neftali Feliz was on the mound, finding himself in a similar position to where he stood nearly a year ago- Game six of the ALCS on Oct. 22, 2010 against New York, to be precise- attempting to close out the series, and send his team to the Fall Classic.
The defense behind him is one that Rangers fans grew used to that season. Josh Hamilton in left field, Craig Gentry in center, Nelson Cruz in right. Adrian Beltré at third base. Elvis Andrus at shortstop. Ian Kinsler at second. Michael Young at first, and Mike Napoli behind the plate.
But the fact that a player nicknamed “Mister Ranger” is playing at first base- best described as an unnatural position for him- is a roller coaster story.
Young had been moved all across the infield in his Texas career. After coming up as a second baseman in the Rangers system, the team moved him to shortstop in 2006 to accommodate Kinsler.
He adjusted spectacularly, making multiple All-Star game appearances at the position.
But in 2009, when the team wanted to move him to third base to accommodate highly touted prospect Elvis Andrus, Young was furious. Rumor had it Young, the face of the franchise, asked to be traded.
Cooler heads prevailed, and Young made a fantastic adjustment to his new position from 2009-10.
A similar storyline emerged prior to 2011. The team signed free agent Adrian Beltré in the offseason and moved Young to first in order to play Beltré.
Things went over better this time. Perhaps it was success- the team was coming off its first pennant and World Series appearance in franchise history.
So after years of captaining a team in flux, and mixed reactions to position changes, there Mister Ranger is, at first base, in Game six of the 2011 ALCS.
It wasn’t a traditional baseball play. But it was only fitting that, when Inge checked is swing, it floated out to Young.
It wasn’t an easy play, either. Young ranged back to his right and made one-hand overhand squeeze on the popout.
He made it look easy. And with the final out, securing Texas’ second straight pennant, Young stuck his right hand up in celebration. Perhaps it was the most elation he ever felt playing for the team.
In that moment, Young’s 2009 trade request didn’t matter. His three position changes didn’t matter. His All-Star appearances, batting title and Silver Slugger Awards didn’t matter.
In that moment, he was the reason Texas was going back to the World Series.
Texas would go onto lose infamously to St. Louis in seven games in the 2011 World Series, but Young was a huge part of the team’s contention until the very end. And in a postseason that many fans look back on with heartbreak, Texas fans can burn in the memory of that series’ final out.
Recorded by none other than Mister Ranger.
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