Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers open Thursday’s practice with free-throw shooting ... wait, what?

Jeff Banister dishes on Rangers' free-throw tournament

The Rangers are in the midst of a free-throw shooting tournament, which manager Jeff Banister believes has value beyond learning who is the team's best shooter (video by Jeff Wilson).
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The Rangers are in the midst of a free-throw shooting tournament, which manager Jeff Banister believes has value beyond learning who is the team's best shooter (video by Jeff Wilson).

Thursday was a day for the Rangers players to work on their free-throw shooting. Wait, what?

Yes, you read that correctly.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister has taken a page from Pete Carroll’s book and added a team-building exercise Carroll uses with the Seattle Seahawks. It’s a morning free-throw shooting tournament among the players. The 60 player names, including a bye, are drawn from a hat at around 8:30 each morning. Eight names were drawn Thursday for the first day of the tournament. Players go head-to-head with each shooting five free throws. If they’re tied, they go to sudden death with the first to miss sent to the loser’s bracket.

I thought it was a sharp idea to help bring some guys together. If I was going to handicap the whole thing it would be [Jeremy] Guthrie.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister

So far we have four winners and four losers. Josh Hamilton threw away his crutches to beat youngster Lewis Brinson. Patrick Kivlehan didn’t have to do much to beat Mitch Moreland, who made just 1 of 5 shots. Jeremy Guthrie, who Banister predicted would win the tournament, beat Rougned Odor. After making only one shot, Odor declared “I play baseball,” in the clubhouse afterward.

Myles Jaye advanced against Sam Dyson, who shot granny style. Dyson made his first but then went 0 for 4.

“[It’s about] team building, putting some guys in uncomfortable situations,” Banister said. “They may not have played basketball before. All of your teammates are standing around you. There’s something about that.”

It’s also a nice break from boring meetings for the players.

“It gets us away from the meetings. It’s kind of reward for sitting through that stuff,” said Chi Chi Gonzalez, who admitted he hasn’t shot a basketball in while. “Hopefully when I get my named called it’s somebody like [pitcher Francisco] Mendoza.”

The point of the tournament, Banister said, is to lighten the mood and encourage team bonding, which is something this clubhouse already has in spades.

“It’s good for camaraderie; everyone is out there cheering,” Kivlehan said. “Being one of the new guys it gives me a chance to spread my horizons and an opportunity to bond with some other players instead of the group I’m with every day.”

Ruggiano’s range

Outfielder Justin Ruggiano was out early Thursday again working at first base, a position he’s never played. He’s hoping to prove a feasible option there if the club needs a right-handed bat. Ruggiano’s bat was on display in Wednesday’s opener when he went 2 for 2 with a double.

“Spring is all about getting your timing, trying to slow the game down a little bit,” he said. “Some days will be nice, some days you feel a little rushed. It’s trying to find that even keel so when the season starts you’ve got something that is constant.”

He’s still not there at first base yet, but he’s working on his foot work with Tony Beasley.

“That’s hard for me,” he said. “Coming from the outfield you’re used to coming through the ball, in the infield you’re receiving the ball, that’s an adjustment.”

Tickets on sale

Individual tickets for home games will go on sale at 9 a.m. Friday.

Only singles and standing room only tickets remain for the home opener April 4 against Seattle as part of the individual ticket sales. Opening day tickets are still available as part of full- and partial-season ticket plans.

Tickets are available at texasrangers.com, by calling 972-726-4377 or at the first base ticket office at Globe Life Park.

Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST