I didn’t think it was possible for me to be a bigger fan of the Texas Rangers than I was until this year’s player draft.
Yes, I’m thrilled with the team’s selection of the young, hard-throwing right-hander who is considered the best pitching prospect among all the college players.
Baseball history shows us that you cannot have too many good pitchers — especially in the playoffs, where good pitching beats good hitting all the time.
But finding the best athlete with the gift of talents and skills to play at the major league level — a place only a few can reach — was not the Rangers’ only goal.
It’s been almost 20 years since our team was eligible for such a high draft pick. Only three others would make their selection before the Rangers’ turn came up. Then they could select whomever they wanted from anywhere in the country.
The day before the draft began, Star-Telegram sports writer Stefan Stevenson reported on the team’s standards in making their selection when their turn came. Teams would be charting their course for the future.
The Rangers, Stevenson wrote, would lean toward the best player available “with the best makeup, mental maturity and character.”
Not just the best and strongest and fastest, but the one who also comes with the character qualities that fit the team’s values.
That added dimension goes against what so many other teams seem to do when it comes to drafting or trading for players who they believe will help them win championships.
They may give lip service to the character of players, but their actions speak much louder than their words.
Efforts to compensate for going after players whose behavior off the field lands them in the criminal justice system or dealing with legal actions brought by victims of their actions always fall short of the higher calling.
Teams doing things like supporting causes that address family violence or fight sexual abuse or promote anger management or whatever else — when done to justify decisions that are obviously made solely on the performance of an athlete on the field — are poor substitutes for doing what is right instead of what is wrong.
Rangers senior director of amateur scouting Kip Flagg describes how he has a hard time feeling comfortable in advancing a player if “we don’t really know the kid, know what he’s about.”
Flagg refers to the “intangibles” that matter and says the team is “very excited” about those aspects that are present in the very talented 21-year old Dillon Tate from UC Santa Barbara.
Tate’s reaction confirms his maturity and ratifies the confidence the team has placed in his qualifications, which include a lot more than the speed of his fastball.
“This is a huge honor. Texas is a great organization, and I’m really fortunate to be in this spot,” he said.
“A lot of kids don’t get this opportunity, and I’m just very blessed to be in this situation I am now.”
The situation Tate is in is a result of his God-given talent and his good decisions in making right choices in his young life.
The Rangers and Dillon Tate would seem to be a good match when it comes to making character as important as skill on the field of play.
Maybe if those standards were at work across all sports, instead of rationalizations for including thugs and felons who distract from the games we love to watch, we would enjoy them even more.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. firstname.lastname@example.org