Texas Rangers fans gathered for a historic moment at Billy Bob’s Texas on Thursday, as Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker prepared to present the key to the city of Fort Worth to the World Series Champions. Local band Squeezebox Bandits provided music for the free event, as attendees waited for the official ceremony to begin.
About 20 minutes before anyone came out on stage, The Commissioner’s Trophy (the trophy of the World Series) was placed on stage, gleaming in the spotlight – as if the Holy Grail had just arrived in Fort Worth and everyone wanted a piece of it. Texas Ranger devotees clamored to the stage to get a photo with the coveted piece of history as “Let’s Go Rangers!” rang out from the crowd the signature three times. “Can You Take Me Higher” by Creed played over the speakers just before the ceremony got underway.
“I don’t know if ya’ll heard, but the Rangers won the World Series,” Texas Rangers sideline reporter Emily Jones said on stage into the roaring crowd. Jones grew up watching the team, and has covered them for the last 19 seasons – the last 10 having worked directly for the team. She expressed great joy and pride to emcee the event, and share The Commissioner’s Trophy with the people of Fort Worth.
She first introduced President and CEO of Visit Fort Worth Bob Jameson.
“Congratulations to our hometown team, the Texas Rangers. Wow. We celebrate the team, the front office, and the incredible fans across the DFW metroplex,” Jameson said with a smile as big as Texas. “When it comes to the Rangers, Fort Worth is all in.”
Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker took the podium, and addressed the guests at Billy Bob’s warmly:
“Hey, Fort Worth. So, here’s the deal. Here’s how we ended up here. We got a phone call from this amazing Rangers team and they said they want to present the trophy at City Hall to dignitaries. And I said, well, that’s boring right? Because the fans in Fort Worth deserve to see this amazing trophy in person because this is our team!”
The crowd yelled in agreement joyfully, exhibiting the sentimental bond these fans have with the team.
“This is to the fans who’ve shown up year after year, after year, some of you decade after decade, after decade – because you believed in this franchise and what the Texas Rangers mean to the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, to Arlington, and really all across DFW,” Parker said.
Mayor Parker touched on the strong bonds between Fort Worth and Arlington, citing the invitation extended to her to participate in last week’s celebration parade. She proceeded to hand the key to the city to Ray Davis and Neil Leibman.
“It’s my job to present this amazing key to Ray Davis, our managing partner and majority owner. Mr Davis is here with us, and Neil Leibman the president and business operations and chief operating officer. Gentlemen, let me present to you, from the city of Fort Worth, a key to our city.”
Ray Davis took the podium to say a few words:
“I’ve been a Ranger fan since the ballpark at Arlington. Sat in hot bleachers, went to Harlington stadium, got hot again in the afternoon, and it’s finally here. We, finally, are world champions,” he said as the crowd roared. “I apologize to all the long-suffering fans, of which I’m one, that it took so long. But let me assure you, the next one won’t take as long.”
Next, there was a Q&A with Texas Rangers pitcher Andrew Heaney, pitching coach Mike Maddux, David Murphy and Texas Rangers Hall of Famer Tom Grieve on stage with Emily Jones.
Jones started with Grieve, and asked, “You’ve seen it all, you’ve done it all. What was it like Wednesday night, experiencing this franchise’ first ever World Series?”
Grieve responded, “It’s hard to explain, but they say right before you die, your whole life flashes in front of you. Well, when we won that game, my whole baseball flashed in front of me. I thought back to 1972 when we first got here. We drew maybe 600 or 700 hundred fans. We had by by far the worst team in baseball, and so none of us entertained any thoughts of what it would be like for the post season or the World Series. WE were just wondering how we were gonna be good enough to stay here for the next season,” he laughed. “But I had the same joy that everyone here felt. But I also felt relief because if you’ve been a Ranger fan for as long as I have worked for the team, they’ve come close a couple of times, but they’ve never won. And so after 2011 and there were some lean seasons, you begin to wonder if that was out best shot and was that our best team. So then to see these guys put it together this year and win was incredible.”
When speaking with former Ranger David Murphy, Jones touched on the heartache for the fandom in 2010 / 2011, and Murphy expressed his happiness for the team, as well as all of the behind-the-scenes people who made the dream come true – including the strength and conditioning staff plus the medical staff.
“I’m just so thrilled for them,” Murphy said. “Andrew and I played together the last two months of my career. He was a rookie at the time, just coming up, and so it’s great just to see how great things happen to great people.”
Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux reflected on retiring and coming back to the team, presented with a dream team pitch for the player roster.
“CY reached out and gave me this pipe dream of pitchers that they would sign. Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob deGrom, Andrew Heaney. And I said, you know, somebody’s smoking some of that illegal stuff around here if you think we’re gonna get those three guys. But he did. And it just set the framework for what was gonna happen. And the positive influence that the front office had, that ownership had, for allowing to make it happen – I appreciate that very much,” Maddux said as the crowd clapped.
When pitcher Andrew Heaney was asked about why he decided not to explore other options and stick with the Rangers, he said, “When you find a place where your family’s comfortable, you enjoy showing up to the ballpark every day, you enjoy the guys you get to play with, staff, a city you love to be in. It’s close to home for me, born and raised in Oklahoma City, ya know. You can’t put a price on that. And I want to defend our title, right?”
Another roar from the crowd filled the room. “We’re gonna do it again!” someone yelled from the crowd.
“We did achieve the ultimate goal, we won the World Series, but you know, frankly, there’s a team South of here we didn’t win the title. I think that bothers a lot of the guys, it bothered me. So we still have a lot to achieve. Defend the title, we want to win the division and I want to be a part of that.”
Before the event wrapped, Texas Rangers mascot Rangers Captain presented Mayor Parker with a cake on stage for her 40th birthday.
“It’s a little jarring that the mayor of my city is six years younger than me, but that’s okay,” Jones laughed on stage. She then led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to the mayor, and thanked the crowd for coming.
Jones concluded with, “I’m so proud of my city, I’m so proud of my team, let’s do this again next year!”
Jessica Waffles is a freelance photographer/videographer and regular contributor to KXT.
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