When the Rangers had their last lost season, back in 2014, the story was no longer about the play on the field. That was abysmal. It was about the players who were getting the chance to play that wouldn’t have had the opportunity had the team been playing for something.
Jim Adduci, Miles Mikolas, Alex Claudio, manager Tim Bogar. Long-shots who finally got the call.
But the best story of all that year was Guilder Rodriguez. He toiled in minor-league obscurity for thirteen years before getting called up to the Rangers in September of 2014. In his second game, with his father in attendance, Rodriguez collected his first major league hit, receiving a standing ovation. His second big league hit, a few innings later, drove in the winning run.
It was a special night that brought tears to anyone with tear ducts and a heart.
The Rangers are in another season where they are just playing out the string. They have another player who gets to live out a lifelong dream.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx spent twelve years pitching his heart out in the minor leagues, in the Mariners, Cubs, Rockies, Nationals, Blue Jays and Rangers farm systems. He’s played in independent leagues. He’s played in the Venezuelan league.
He has been traded or released more times than anyone could imagine. But every time his future as a major leaguer looked bleak, he never gave up. He believed in himself.
Finally, after twelve seasons and twenty-two minor league cities, he got the phone call he’s waited for his whole life. The dream came true Sunday morning. He was headed to the big leagues.
He said he cried. Then he called his wife. She cried.
Bibens-Dirkx joins a bullpen that is in shambles. Through no fault of his own, he instantly becomes part of the most despised group of athletes in America, the Rangers bullpen.
But that’s beyond his control. What he can control is what he does when he gets called into his first game. It’s curious why he wasn’t called upon last night for an inning in a hopelessly lost game to get his feet wet. Perhaps Jeff Banister is waiting to give him his debut with the game on the line, which seems like an odd thing to do to a guy whose nerves will be on overdrive. But Banister is the manager and he knows best.
On the plus side for Bibens-Dirkx, all he has to do is throw a strike to the first batter he faces and he instantly becomes the Rangers most successful relief pitcher of 2017.
Congratulations, Austin. Welcome to the Texas Rangers. Sorry.
AJ Griffin (3-0, 3.54) vs. Jered Weaver (0-3, 5.51)
Game time: 2:40