Darvish drawing attention to other Rangers
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Ryan Strausborger got to join a growing group of Texas Rangers gaining newfound fame Thursday afternoon.
Strausborger, who played in Class A in 2011, spoke to an overflow crowd of reporters after Thursday’s workout of the Texas Rangers. His name will appear in papers in Japan and he’ll likely be on highlight clips in two countries — the United States and Japan.
The reason for his newfound fame? He was the first Texas hitter to face Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish. On the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers, Strausborger put one ball in play fair, hitting a weak grounder to shortstop off the end of his bat.
In the new world of media surrounding the Texas Rangers, Strausborger’s day got him a press conference alongside superstar prospect Jurickson Profar, who also got into the cage against Darvish but didn’t swing at a pitch. They joined a growing crowd of Texas personnel who have been swept up in Yu-mania.
“I was excited to hear I was facing him and the first one out there,” said Strausborger, who hit .270 at Myrtle Beach in 2011. “It was definitely a pretty good experience seeing somebody who’s coming over here. He’s the big talk right now and it’s good to see a good arm and somebody with all the movement he has.”
Also drawing a press conference for their association with Darvish Thursday were pitching coach Mike Maddux, who took questions alongside Triple-A pitching coach Terry Clark. Clark was on the field when Darvish threw batting practice.
Texas catcher Mike Napoli, who caught Darvish in his bullpen session as well as batting practice, also talked about the day. His press conference came with Derek Holland, who warmed up with Darvish. Both pitcher Justin Miller and catcher Luis Martinez have also been the subject of several interviews. Miller’s claim to fame is he has a locker next to Darvish in the Texas clubhouse. Martinez caught Darvish in the bullpen Tuesday.
The attention the club has received in the wake of the Darvish signing was expected. The postseason runs the last two years have also helped the Rangers deal with the added spotlight.
“It’s a little postseason pandemonium here in spring training,” said Maddux. “The media attention that we’re gathering, not only for us being a repeating championship team, but adding some high-caliber players. A lot of guys are well known but sometimes you run across a guy who’s famous. That’s what we’re dealing with is somebody who’s famous.”
Texas has its share of stars already. Josh Hamilton is already one of the biggest names in baseball. Michael Young is a perennial All-Star. Team president Nolan Ryan, who had his Darvish-related presser Wednesday, is one of the greatest pitchers in the game’s history.
Darvish said Thursday he’s used to the paparazzi-like treatment from his playing days in Japan. The Rangers just want everyone who’s watching the team now to know there are 58 other players in camp and 24 others who will be with Darvish when Texas plays the Chicago White Sox on Opening Day.
“It seems like people forget about the rest of the team,” said Holland, who jokingly acted like a photographer when he left the field alongside Darvish. “We’ve got a lot of other guys talented enough out there to be talked about as well. Yu is a good pitcher. Don’t take that away from him but don’t forget about the rest of the guys we’ve got on the squad.”
Holland, who was one of the first Rangers to befriend Darvish, wasn’t taking a shot at his new teammates. But he also knows that for most of the people in Surprise this week, the Rangers are also a one-man team.
But not everything in camp is Darvish-related and the Rangers are the reason. Texas was already national news because of the success on the field before they ever signed him. Now they’re international news and trying to take all of that in stride.
“I guess this comes with success,” said Texas manager Ron Washington, whose normal pre-practice update was noticeably different because of the number of Japanese reporters outside the dugout. “People are interested in the Texas Rangers so I guess we’ve got to deal with it.”
The good news for Washington is that he won’t have to deal with it alone. Certainly not this spring.