Rangers owner Bob Simpson has reason to be thrilled

11/08/2011 11:44 PM

11/09/2011 6:30 AM

Bob Simpson remembers growing up in West Texas during the Mickey Mantle-era of baseball, and watching the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians play.

There wasn't a local team for him to root for until the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers before the 1972 season.

"That's really when I took a much greater interest in baseball and the Rangers," Simpson said.

Now, Simpson, the co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Fort Worth-based XTO Energy, is a majority owner and co-chairman of the Rangers.

Simpson has seen the team advance to two World Series since his group has been in place, and he'll be honored Thursday night.

Simpson will receive the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award, joining the likes of Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Byron Nelson, Tom Landry and Roger Staubach. Last year, T. Boone Pickens was the honoree.

Thursday's gala at Ridglea Country Club has a reception at 6 p.m. with a dinner at 7:30 p.m.

"It's certainly a thrill to win," Simpson said. "I look at the list of people who have won it before and, wow, I'm not sure if I'm qualified. But it's a big thrill for me and my family."

Simpson spoke to the Star-Telegram on Tuesday afternoon about winning the award, as well as the long-term vision for the Rangers and being one of the few local owners to stay in the background.

Were you ever able to meet the late Bobby Bragan? No, our paths never crossed, and I wasn't involved with the Rangers until last year. Maybe if it was a few years sooner, but I'm certainly aware of his name and what a legend he is.

What are some of your early memories from the Rangers? Well, I was there the night David Clyde pitched [in 1973], and I saw the perfect game thrown by Kenny Rogers. And I saw a lot of Nolan [Ryan]'s achievements. I remember many of the sellout nights when Nolan pitched, and honing in on the strikeout record. Then the privilege to be Nolan Ryan's partner, that's been a real thrill.

Did you foresee this type of success with two World Series already? What a ride. We're associating with a team that before last year hadn't won a playoff series, and now it's gone to two World Series in the last 13 months. Incredibly lucky timing, and I attribute that to Nolan Ryan and the organization he was building there before we came in.

What will it take to sustain it? I think we're at a moment of inflection where we won't be just a one-or-two-hit wonder, and we'll go on to greater things. The opportunity in the Metroplex is there with the population and fan support to have a franchise at this level compete every year. Financially, the team is young and, to maintain this level of talent, will require more resources. That's where [co-chairman] Ray Davis and I will step in, and we have the vision to sustain this and increase revenues and have a perennial power in baseball.

What's the big-picture financial plan? The [$3 billion] TV contract steps up in 2015, and we understand as owners that the goal is to try and permanently take the Rangers to this competitive level. We'll kind of attack that three different ways. We [the owners] will put up capital. We're expecting from 2011-2014 we will probably spend $40 million on capital improvements and $60 million or so on payroll and other needs. We'll fund the deficit of the team from the owner's pockets unlike teams, such as the Dodgers, who have taken money out of the franchise. So we're going to put $100 million into it over a four-year period to supplement the team. During that time period, we'll also need to increase revenues from fans and get their support to keep this level of play. Then our contract will step up in 2015, and our goal is it will be self-sustaining at a higher level at that time. That's the overall plan we've agreed to.

Is it safe to say that there will be a nine-figure payroll next season? It will be. Success follows success. By 2015 the goal is that this team will be self-sustaining, but our payroll may be another 40 or 50 percent higher. So that will move you up to a level where you should field a great team year after year. We just need to bridge the gap [between now and the TV contract] to get this great franchise to permanent success.

The Metroplex doesn't have too many behind-the-scenes owners like you and Ray Davis. Do you like staying in the background? Ray and I stay in the background and support the organization the way we know how. Our expertise is not picking baseball players -- never thought it was and never think it will be. We have some strengths, but it's not that. Our job is to support financially and then offer some vision on how we can sustain the level of competitiveness. You won't see us out front, but we'll be active. The guys you'll see out front are Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels and Ron Washington, and that's the way it should be.

Follow Drew Davison on Twitter @drewdavison.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

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