Texas Rangers

Rangers’ Mike Napoli, Rougned Odor building strong dirtbag brotherhood

Rangers Rougned Odor in action

Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor runs and throws during a cutoff drill at spring training in Surprise, AZ, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. (Video by Max Faulkner/Star-Telegram)
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Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor runs and throws during a cutoff drill at spring training in Surprise, AZ, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. (Video by Max Faulkner/Star-Telegram)

It didn’t take long for the two dirtbags to gravitate toward one another.

In baseball lexicon, a dirtbag is someone who plays with ferocious passion and life-or-death devotion. They leave it all on the field every game.

So when Mike Napoli rejoined the Texas Rangers in August 2015, he was quickly drawn to Rougned Odor, the scrappy, free-swinging and hard-hitting then 21-year-old second baseman.

“I just liked how he went about things. It’s easy to gravitate toward him,” said Napoli, who broke into the majors in 2006 when Odor was 12. “He’s here early every day. He loves the game, he plays it hard, he has flash. He’s a confident kid.”

He’s a genuine, loving guy. He’s like me, it doesn’t matter who you are, he’s going to love you. You’re part of his family when you’re in this clubhouse.

Mike Napoli on Rougned Odor

Manager Jeff Banister loves having Napoli, 35, in his clubhouse for all the intangibles he brings to a team. He sees a strong bond forming between two similarly styled players.

“Rougie is a smart guy, a smart player, but he sees a guy like [Napoli] and he knows that he doesn’t have all the answers himself,” Banister said of Napoli’s experience. “So reaching out and reaching up and saying, ‘Hey, I like what you do and how you play the game, I think it’s very similar to me, can you help me out?’ For Mike to really want to do that is outstanding.”

It’s not only the on-the-field style that Napoli sees reflected in Odor, it’s his off-the-field friendliness and genuine love he shows for his teammates, clubhouse attendants, or anyone associated with his team.

12 Rougned Odor’s age when Mike Napoli, 35, made his major league debut in 2006.

“He’s a genuine, loving guy,” Napoli said. “He’s like me, it doesn’t matter who you are, he’s going to love you, you’re part of his family when you’re in this clubhouse and I love stuff like that. He’s not afraid to tell me if I’m doing something [wrong] in the cage. There’s such a good relationship there. He wants me to do well.”

At 23, Odor is a rising star. He already has a healthy respect from the rest of the league, Napoli said.

“For a young kid to be able to do what he’s done, I think he is respected,” he said. “Especially after a certain incident last year, he got a lot more respect.”

The Jose Bautista incident aside, Napoli knows how perceptions and reputations can get skewed. He’s even guilty of it. He didn’t exactly appreciate former Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler’s style when Napoli was still with the Los Angeles Angels. But after becoming teammates with Kinsler in 2011, that all changed.

They’re very similar in their attitudes and very similar in how they think about the game.

Jeff Banister on Mike Napoli and Rougned Odor

“Being with the Angels and playing against him, you didn’t like him, the antics, things he does,” Napoli said of Kinsler. “But when I came over here and got to know him and saw how much he loved the game and respected the game and took care of his teammates, we became great friends. It’s kind of hard to judge somebody without knowing them.”

Being misbranded could bother a player, too, which is another reason why Banister likes having Napoli there for Odor.

“It’s a landscape where you get judged and questioned whether you are too tough. Are you playing the game the wrong way,” Banister said. “The reality is he’s playing the game the right way. To have a guy like [Napoli] on your team, in your clubhouse that you can share notes with, that is a huge plus for me.”

Up next

vs. Mariners, 2:05 p.m. Friday, Surprise Stadium

Rangers probable pitchers: RHP Tyler Wagner, LHP Alex Claudio, RHP Allen Webster, RHP Connor Sadzeck, RHP Brady Dragmire.

Mariners probable pitchers: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP Ryan Weber, LHP Dillon Overton, RHP Christian Bergman, RHP Nick Vincent, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, RHP Dan Altavilla.

Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST

Texas

000

000

100

1

Oakland

201

002

00x

5

Texas ab

r

h

bi

Oakland ab

r

h

bi

DShelds cf

3

0

2

0

R.Davis cf

3

1

1

0

M.Lipka cf

1

0

0

0

Prmelee rf

1

0

0

0

T.Snder rf

3

0

0

0

M.Smien ss

3

2

1

1

J.Hying rf

1

0

0

0

J.Wndle 2b

1

0

0

0

Rya.Rua lf

3

0

0

0

M.Joyce rf

3

0

2

0

Hineman lf

1

0

1

0

Y.Munoz 3b

1

0

0

0

J.Gallo dh

2

0

0

0

R.Healy 1b

2

0

0

2

A.Ibnez ph

1

0

0

0

J.Dcker cf

1

0

0

0

Mddbrks 3b

3

0

0

0

St.Vogt c

2

0

1

0

Mrtnson 3b

1

0

0

0

Maxwell c

2

1

1

0

J.Loney 1b

2

0

0

0

Plouffe 3b

2

0

1

0

Rbinson 2b

2

1

0

0

C.Pnder ss

1

1

1

0

Alberto ss

3

0

2

1

J.Lwrie 2b

0

0

0

0

Ncholas c

1

0

0

0

M.Olson 1b

1

0

0

0

B.Hayes c

1

0

0

0

M.Canha dh

2

0

1

0

Cntwell c

1

0

0

0

R.Nunez ph

2

0

0

0

Brugman lf

3

0

1

2

Rdrguez lf

1

0

0

0

Totals 29

1

5

1

Totals 31

5

10

5

E—Alberto (2). DP—Texas 2, Oakland 3. LOB—Texas 4, Oakland 7. 2B—Semien (1). SF—Healy (1).

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Hauschild L, 0-1

2  1/3

4

3

2

1

0

Dykstra

 2/3

1

0

0

0

0

Gee

2

2

0

0

1

1

Bass

1

3

2

2

1

0

D. Alvarez

1

0

0

0

0

2

R. Alvarez

1

0

0

0

1

1

Oakland

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Hahn W, 1-0

3

3

0

0

0

3

Axford H, 1

1

0

0

0

2

0

Alcantara H, 1

3

1

1

1

1

2

Montas

2

1

0

0

0

1

WP—RAlvarez, Alcantara. T—2:40. A—3,326

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