What a first year for Rangers Baseball Express

Posted Friday, Aug. 12, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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The Tom Hicks Era officially came to an end one year ago today in a hotel ballroom in Minneapolis, where Rangers Baseball Express was approved as owner of the Texas Rangers.

Though Hicks has been an afterthought ever since Bob Simpson, Ray Davis and a group of minority investors took over, some fans are cynical enough to celebrate one owner's demise rather than the rise of another.

But it's been a busy and largely successful first 12 months for the group headed by one of its minority investors, Nolan Ryan.

"There've been so many moving parts and so much going on," Ryan said. "Before you know it, you look up and a year's gone by. You wonder where time goes."

Aug. 12, 2010: MLB owners unanimously approve the sale of the Rangers to the investment group headed by Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg.

October 2010: The Rangers win a postseason series for the first time in team history, defeating the Rays in the ALDS. They make their first World Series after beating the Yankees in six games in the ALCS.

Dec. 14, 2010: Cliff Lee would be pitching in Arlington and not Philadelphia had the Rangers agreed to guarantee a seventh year. But they didn't. The chain of events that followed -- signing Adrian Beltre, watching Matt Harrison mature and Alexi Ogando become an All-Star -- are all a direct result of not keeping Lee. Said Ryan: "I'm a believer that things work out for the best. ... When you have an action, there's a reaction. You never know how things are going to work out."

January 2011: It's not just in the Metroplex where Rangers jerseys or caps are the rage. The Rangers first started getting feedback during the off-season during the annual Winter Caravan in January, which went as far south as San Antonio. The Rangers have also noticed a bump in support on the road, where fans are showing their pride more. Said Ryan: "The in-thing to do is wear Rangers garb to games. We're seeing it whether we're on the road or home. There are a lot of transplants who get to say, 'Hey, I'm from Texas, and I'm proud of it.'"

March 11, 2011: Fans were shocked when it was announced that Greenberg, who helped organize Rangers Baseball Express and led the courtroom fight for control of the club, was leaving. He was popular with fans, but he and Ryan were not a good business pairing. Neither side has discussed the details of the split.

May 2011: The Rangers have been aggressive internationally after missing out in 2010 because of bankruptcy. They signed Cuban defector Leonys Martin in May for $15 million, and handed out a $5 million bonus to 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Nomar Mazara in July. Another $5 million has been given to three others in Latin America.

July 7, 2011: The toughest moment by far in the first year of new ownership, and one of the toughest in franchise history, was the death of Shannon Stone. The Brownwood firefighter fell from the left-field stands trying to catch a ball thrown his way by Josh Hamilton. The Rangers have responded with safety initiatives around the ballpark. Said Ryan: "That's as tragic an event as we've ever had at this stadium. It's one of those issues where you do whatever you can to work through it."

Fans started flocking to Rangers Ballpark last season as a playoff spot became a real possibility. Some initiatives announced the day after ownership changed hands are still in place and attractive to fans, as are the new videoboard and adjustments in pricing. The result, despite blistering heat, has been more than 1.8 million fans after 62 home dates. Said Ryan: "One reason is our on-field performance. Another is looking at us as an organization committed to putting a good product on the field and trying to enhance the fan experience."

August 2011: The club assembled by general manager Jon Daniels is in first place for a 37th consecutive day. Supported by money from the new owners, the Rangers added Beltre, Yorvit Torrealba, Mike Napoli and Arthur Rhodes in the off-season, and avoided arbitration for two years with Josh Hamilton. Five Rangers were AL All-Stars in July.

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