Tom Grieve and Bobby Jones received a baseball version of a lifetime achievement award Monday by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day, commemorating their 50 years in professional baseball.
The close friends broke into the Senators/Rangers organization together as outfielders with the franchise’s New York-Penn League affiliate in Geneva in 1967.
Both remain with the organization, Grieve as a broadcaster and Jones, a longtime manager in the Rangers minor league system and three times a coach with the major league team, taking on a new job this season as the big league team’s replay coordinator.
“When you’re little you dream of being a player and when you’re a player you just assume that you’ll go back to school or get a job … you don’t have the slightest idea of what you’re going to do,” said Grieve, who moved into the team’s front office after his playing days, climbing the ladder to general manager in 1984.
“The longer you play, the more it’s what you know and do. To be able to stay in it after that all this time, there’s no way you could see that coming.”
Grieve and Jones became close friends during that 1967 season. Jones, 66, whose career was interrupted with a 14-month tour of duty in Vietnam, made his major league debut in 1974 with the Rangers, though he left for stints with the Angels and Japan before rejoining the Rangers in 1981.
Grieve, 68, played almost all of his nine-year career with Washington/Texas, except for a season with the Mets and nine games with the Cardinals in 1979, his last as a player.
“He’s one of my three or four best friends,” Grieve said. “We played together with [Geneva] and I lived with him before my family got there. We got to be close.”
Asked his most memorable Opening Day moment, Grieve said, without batting an eye: Van Cliburn playing the national anthem for the opening of the then Ballpark in Arlington in 1994.
Opening Day served as a day of homecoming for three players on Monday.
“This is my first Opening Day in my hometown,” said Seattle reliever Nathan Karns, a product of Arlington Martin High School who broke into the bigs with Tampa Bay in 2014. “I’ve never been to an Opening Day. It is something special. I’m here and it doesn’t bother me at all that I’m in a Seattle Mariners jersey.”
Karns said a large number of friends and family were among those in the sellout crowd Monday.
New Rangers catcher Bryan Holaday, acquired in the final days of last month, made his homecoming complete while being introduced for the first time as a Texas Ranger.
The Dallas native’s new commute to work is a 20-minute drive from Fort Worth, where he went to school and played under Jim Schlossnagle at TCU.
“I talk to him frequently,” Holaday said of his college coach. “He’s happy for sure, but we were talking more about how pumped we were that [TCU] swept Wichita State.”
And then there’s Leonys Martin, the highly skilled prospect from Cuba who never met expectations in Texas, which traded him to Seattle in a deal that brought Texas reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, among others.
Martin played center field and hit ninth for Seattle, going 0 for 2.
“It’s a little bit weird, but it is what it is,” Martin said. “I’m happy to be here and excited for the games to start … happy to wear a Seattle Mariners uniform.”
He agreed it’s funny how things can work out.
She’s got a sniffer on her
She was as excitable and playful as a pet playing at the park, but Bindi was actually hard at work.
The 6-year-old black Labrador retriever is a five-year veteran with the Arlington Fire Department, trained to sniff out explosives.
Bindi was among seven dogs working on Monday.
“Something’s got her excited,” said the officer handling her, “I’m trying to figure out what it is. But she’s one of our better ones … she’s a veteran.”
Bomb-sniffing dogs are part of the new world reality, though extra precautions were taken with the presence of VIPs with Secret Service protection.
Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, were in their regular Opening Day seats near the Rangers dugout.
Bush posed for pictures with Rangers manager Jeff Banister’s family before the game.
One fan has been around longer than Tom Grieve and Bobby Jones. Nancy Wangner attended her 56th consecutive Rangers/Senators home opener. The wife of former club executive Charles Wangner hasn’t missed an opener since 1961.
Two young boys are working on their own streaks. Luke and Shane Logan, 13 and 11, have been to every opener since their days in swaddling clothes.
All were treated to new fan experiences and amenities.
Luke chowed down on the new Flamin’ Hot Cheetos hot dog, worth every dime of his parents’ expense, he declared.
While the digestion began to do its thing on Luke, Lindsey Roberts of Fort Worth bit down on a hot dog topped with cotton candy, a surprisingly popular item on day one, concessionaires asserted.
Delicious, she and her father, Richard Kopp said.
Considering there are people who eat cod soaked in lye, why not?
The poles say
Fans also took note of the new foul poles down each base line. Those replaced the towers that had served the game since the days of Arlington Stadium.
For the first time, though, the team is using the poles for advertising, bought by fast-food giant Chick-fil-A.
“Eat Mor Fowl,” the Chick-fil-A cows proclaim on each pole.
See what they did there?