February 1, 2013

Texas Rangers' trucks heading west first sign of spring

Moving trucks loaded with 9,000 baseballs, 30 cases of powdered sports drink mix, massage tables, four pitching machines and three motorcycles leave for Arizona.

ARLINGTON -- Tanner Scheppers packed extra dog food, just as his wife recommended.

Not only is spring training two weeks longer because of this year's World Baseball Classic, but the Schepperses added a second dog two weeks ago when they adopted a Boston terrier.

Scheppers' dog food, as well as a few teammates' Pack 'n Play children playpens and three motorcycles, were among the many items aboard the Texas Rangers' moving truck that departed Friday afternoon from Rangers Ballpark en route to the team's facility in Surprise, Ariz.

For Scheppers, seeing the 18-wheeler loaded up signaled how close spring training is; pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12.

"It's exciting, you get that baseball itch where you want to get back on the field," Scheppers said.

Said pitching coach Mike Maddux: "It's time to start that grind. It's always fun to pack the bags because it lets you know we'll be smelling leather and baseball bats pretty shortly. That's what we live for."

The Rangers' equipment crew, headed by Richard "Hoggy" Price and his nine assistants, has been prepping for spring training ever since the season ended, and it intensified in January. The past two weeks, Price said, has been crossing the t's and dotting the i's to make sure nothing is left behind.

The Rangers are taking 125 cases of baseballs to Arizona. There are six dozen baseballs in every case, which means there are 9,000 baseballs in all. How many will come back?

"None," Price said with a chuckle.

Among the other items are $4,000 worth of coffee, 30 cases of powdered sports drink mix, massage tables, an elliptical machine, two jerseys per player and four pitching machines. There are also cases of sunflower seeds and bubble gum.

Price said the team buys everyday items such as coffee in Texas rather than Arizona to support local vendors.

For Price, it was mostly a standard packing job. He's loaded spring training trucks dating to 1978 when the team only needed a U-Haul trailer to take to their facility in Pompano Beach, Fla., with room to spare.

Price had a first this year, however. The three motorcycles loaded in a separate truck are something he hasn't seen before. The bikes belonged to senior executive vice president Jim Sundberg, team physician Keith Meister and assistant athletic trainer Kevin Harmon.

"Been doing this quite a while and that's a first for me," Price said.

Maddux on camp

Mike Maddux is ready for spring training, and is just as eager as most to see who emerges to fill big leagues roles.

"We have some 'help wanted' signs hanging from our bullpen and for a spot in our rotation, so it'll be interesting," he said. "Last year at this point, we were wondering who this Robbie Ross guy was, and he made us know who he was. We're going to see who this year's Robbie Ross is."

Maddux said the team will have 12 pitchers stretched out to start in spring, including Ross, Martin Perez, Justin Grimm, Kyle McClellan, Nick Tepesch, Randy Wells and Cody Buckel, along with regulars Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. The 12th starter has yet to be determined.

Number changes

The Rangers will have a few notable number changes this year. Jurickson Profar will be No. 13; Lance Berkman will be No. 27; Leonys Martin will be No. 2; and Jeff Baker will wear No. 15.

Profar switched to 13 from 2 because he wore the number for Curacao when it won the Little League World Series in 2004, equipment manager Hoggy Price said.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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