I shared the story of how I fell in love with the Texas Rangers in a 2006 Christian Chronicle column titled "For love of God, family and baseball":
The stadium felt like a furnace — think obnoxious Texas heat in early July — when I walked into my first major-league baseball game at age 14.
By then, of course, I was already a big baseball fan, with thousands of baseball cards, an autographed picture of Pete Rose and a dream of growing up to do radio play-by-play. For all the hours I had spent watching televised games and poring over newspaper box scores, though, I had never actually been to a game.
But in 1982, my family moved to Dallas-Fort Worth, and a heaven with the greenest grass I had ever seen beckoned us.
We made it to our bleacher seats in the bottom of the first inning, just as Texas Rangers slugger Larry Parrish stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. That Saturday was “Bat Day,” so 10,000 wooden bats banged thunderously against the concrete and the crowd roared at an obscene decibel as the ball sailed over the fence — a grand slam!
A young lifetime of rooting for the Cincinnati Reds suddenly vanished. I fell in love with the Rangers that day. (They have won exactly one playoff game since.)
In the decade since I wrote that column, my Rangers have provided me with more than a few postseason thrills. They advanced to the World Series in 2010 and 2011 (please don't mention Game 6). And they rode a #NeverEverQuit mindset to an improbable American League West Division championship this season.
Alas, the 2015 season ended in brutal fashion Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Division Series against the Toronto Blue Jays:
But as popular Rangers blogger Jamey Newberg put it so well today, "I'm really proud that the Texas Rangers are my team." And as Texas manager Jeff Banister told reporters, "One inning won't define who this ballclub is, and who they've been all year long. We won the West when nobody thought we would do anything. I'm more proud of how those guys played all year long."
For Rangers fans looking for a little inspiration, a front-page feature published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before Wednesday's loss might provide it:
ARLINGTON — Dawn Shepard’s love of the Texas Rangers began behind bars.
The native New Yorker started watching Rangers games in the mid-1990s, while serving more than eight years on a drug charge at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth. Some — but not all — of the Rangers games at that time were televised on a local UHF television channel, and on those occasions the games could be watched on a prison TV in a common area.
“Juan Gonzalez. Pudge Rodriguez. Mark McLemore,” she said, citing some of the club’s best players at the time. “Those were my guys.”
Released from prison in 1999, the longtime fan will be watching Wednesday as the Rangers play the Blue Jays in the deciding game of the American League Division Series in Toronto.
Keep reading, and the Star-Telegram describes how Shepard turned her life around.
Yes, there's a religion angle:
She also became active at First Presbyterian Church, where she continues to serve as coordinator for the Community Crossroads program. It’s an outreach center in Fort Worth’s Hemphill neighborhood where residents can go for fellowship, or help with any variety of problems.
It was through those community service activities that Shepard was occasionally offered free Rangers tickets. She attended her first Rangers game in person in 2001, and immediately felt at home.
“I feel blessed at how my life has turned out, and baseball is a large part of it,” she said. “I just love going to the ballpark.”
The profile ends this way:
Shepard, who once thought she had thrown her life away, now spends her evenings watching her favorite team from behind home plate, 18 rows from the field.
“So many people stop and ask to take a picture, or say I have been in an inspiration to them,” she said. “I just feel so blessed.”
Overall, it's a wonderful story. But it's haunted by a holy ghost.
For those new to GetReligion, what do we mean when we refer to "holy ghosts?"
They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
In this case, it seems obvious that God and faith are important to Shepard. That's clear by looking at her Twitter profile, where she proclaims: "I love God, Indian food, & Tx Rangers baseball." In the middle of Wednesday's game, she tweeted:
Yet the Star-Telegram skirts the religion angle — Shepard's quotes about being "blessed" notwithstanding.
Neither faith nor God makes an appearance in the story, as the newspaper seems intent on writing around the role of religion in Shepard's life.
That's a shame because including such crucial elements of Shepard's transformation would have made an excellent profile even better.
In any case, go Rangers! They'll be back — better than ever — in 2016. Trust me on that.