It has been an eventful month for Texas Rangers outfielder Will Venable.
His first child, McKinley, was born Aug. 6, in San Diego, where he was a much-loved player for the Padres. Less than two weeks later, he was traded to Texas.
“Knowing I had to say goodbye to people and a place I love is not an easy thing to do,” Venable said before the Rangers opened their series against the Padres at Petco Park on Monday. “Especially, when it’s instant. I had to get my stuff and get out of the clubhouse in about an hour or two. It was emotional, but it’s something that happens to everybody.”
The trade caught Venable, who lives near Austin in Steiner Ranch, off guard. To leave the baseball family, the friends and the fans of San Diego, plus a brand new baby girl, was gut-wrenching.
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But moments after he got the news, someone with Padres mentioned that he’d soon be back in town with the Rangers. That made saying goodbye a little easier.
“It lessened the blow a little bit on a personal level,” he said. “Which was great, because I didn’t feel like I needed to totally say goodbye all in one swoop.”
Padres fans showed their appreciation by giving him a substantial ovation the first time he came to the plate wearing a Rangers uniform Monday night. The Padres’ organization even played a tribute on the video board thanking Venable for his seven-plus years of service. The gesture moved Venable, who tipped his cap to his former Padres’ teammates clapping along from the dugout.
“If I hadn’t had to be so focused on the game it would have been really emotional. It was really special,” he said. “It was a very meaningful experience. I know how I feel about this place and for them to reciprocate that love. Just talking about it gets me choked up.”
The fans’ treatment of Venable is about much more than his solid career on the field, Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
“It tells you a lot about the guy, the human being and the impact he’s had on [the fans] as a baseball player and, also, inside the community,” Banister said. “That’s a testament to the guy. That’s really cool for me because when you get right down to it, to play this game, as a player you go through so much, to get that real appreciation when you come back in another uniform … my guess even the next time he comes back they’re going to appreciate him that much. It feels good because it’s right. It should be that way.”
Venable wasn’t a complete stranger to some in the Rangers’ clubhouse. He was teammates with former Padres Anthony Bass, Kyle Blanks and Ross Ohlendorf, who also played with him at Princeton. His generous personality has made the transition easier. That’s something Ohlendorf saw when he played with Venable, a star on the basketball court and the diamond.
“He was really popular on campus,” said Ohlendorf, who was called up from Triple A Round on Tuesday. “He just cares about people and he’s nice to everybody. Plus, you’re just drawn to him, how smart he is, how athletic he is.”
Venable has played in 10 games, including Tuesday in San Diego, since joining the Rangers. He’s hitting .274 with two runs scored and an RBI for Texas.
Venable would like to get past the tributes and focus on helping the Rangers secure a postseason berth.
“I’ve gotten comfortable with the fact that I’m no longer a Padre,” he said. “I think it took probably two days where it hadn’t set in really. But now being around all these guys, the coaching staff, the training staff and the city of Arlington … I’m comfortable over here now. I’m a Ranger.”