I'm not sure what my first memory is. When it comes to chronologically ordering events in my life, especially those of my early life, I'm fairly bad at it. Ask me how a local sports team did in 1996-or even 1986-and odds are I can tell you, but ask me what year I first kissed a girl....and well, I remember who and where, but I'd have to do some heavy mental math to figure out what year it was. It's just the way my brain is wired, for better or worse. That said, there may very well be earlier memories for me....but among my first memories was my mother taking me to a local rec center to meet a few members of the Texas Rangers. Somewhere at my Dad's house theres still both a framed picture of the 1988 Texas Rangers as well as a Tony the Tiger baseball (redeemed, no doubt, from many a bowl of Frosted Flakes), each with three signatures on it....those of Chad Kreuter, Scott Fletcher, and Jeff Kunkel.
Now obviously somewhere previous to that I was wired to love Rangers baseball (why else would I have wanted to go meet them? or have been so excited by it?), but I remember that picture and that signed baseball....and how they were my most precious possessions for many years of my life. I didn't care that Chad Kreuter, Scott Fletcher, and Jeff Kunkel were spares...they were baseball players, and Rangers at that, and thus worth of idol status to me. And buried next to that 1988 Texas Rangers team photograph, I'm sure sits a 1989 one....a picture I remember spending hours looking at as a child. For in my mind, that 1989 team was a magical one...it was the team that would shape so much of my youth, and who's players I can still recite like gospel.
John Barfield (his name had barf in it!), Kevin Brown, Charlie Hough, Jamie Moyer (still playing), Kenny Rogers (still playing), Bobby Witt, Nolan Ryan (like everyone else, my childhood hero), Jim Sundberg, Geno Petralli, Steve Buechele (boooooooooooo.....), Julio Franco, Rafael Palmeiro, Dean Palmer, Juan Gonzalez, Cecil Espy, Ruben Sierra, Pete Incaviglia, Sammy Sosa (who wouldnt actually be relevant for another decade), Harold Baines, Buddy Bell. Those are the names of my youth, and to this day those names take me back in time to my childhood.
And it is with those names and that childish glee, that I find myself with less than a week until baseball season starts getting giddy at the fact that its almost here. Nevermind that the Rangers have been good, well, never or that we all know that this will be just another in the lifelong series of disappointing seasons. They will be bad, and by May 1 I'm sure I will be frustrated, and yet every night there I'll be....tuned in to another lousy game in a lousy season of lousy Rangers baseball, it's the ultimate lifelong 5 car pileup on the freeway you just can't seem to take your eyes off of.
The spirits of those players and the childhood memories, every year about this time, they come flooding back. And I find myself sucked back in.