Rangers fans: 56K | 350K
HOUSTON -- The Rangers' fast start has created newfound enthusiasm among Texas fans. Recently, that excitement manifested itself in the form of punched out All-Star ballots, as second baseman Alfonso Soriano drew more votes than any other Major League player.
Hank Blalock, Michael Young and Mark Teixeira also finished in the top five in the American League at their respective positions. Blalock and Young, along with Francisco Cordero and Kenny Rogers, ended up making the team to give Texas its largest All-Star representation ever.
In addition, prospect John Danks participated in the New York Mercantile All-Star Futures Game, ex-Rangers Will Clark and Rich Gossage played in the Taco Bell Legends and Celebrity Softball Game, and Ray Ramirez serves as one of two American League trainers. And, for good measure, mascot Rangers Captain has come to Houston as well.
The combination of this sizable Rangers presence coupled with an in-state All-Star site likely has led a number of Rangers fans to make the trip down I-45. Rangers caps and other fan adornments had a conspicuous Minute Maid Park concourse presence that rivaled the ubiquitous Yankees pinstripes and trailed only the hometown Astros.
Lonnie Ferrell, from Arlington, made the journey south and thought the large Texas contingent appropriate.
"It was obvious all five of them deserved it, whether they got the votes or not. I was surprised that Soriano got so many. But without Young and Blalock, and those two pitchers, it would have been an atrocity had they not been named to [the AL team]," he said, clad in his Rangers shirt and cap.
Jaime Nava, a Rangers fan recently relocated to Houston, listed two reasons for his elation at seeing a large part of his favorite team in his new town.
"The Rangers are finally in first place again," said Nava, wearing his red throwback Rangers cap. "And since I hate all the Houston teams, I'm happy to wear my Texas Rangers hat down here."
The All-Star break standings, which feature the Rangers atop the division for the first time since they wore the red cap Nava favored, seemed to have a lot of influence on Rangers rooter enthusiasm. Rob Marrow, another transplant to Houston, wore his Rangers cap and jersey to the John Hancock All-Star Fanfest.
"Right now, with Hank Blalock, and Kenny Rogers and Cordero, they're doing really well," Marrow gushed about his team. "The Rangers are actually, compared to all the seasons I've been in Arlington, they're actually doing really well."
Ferrell summed up the feelings expressed by most fans interviewed, saying, "I had no idea they would be this good. But this is probably the most exciting Rangers team I've seen in many years, because they're so hungry and they're young and they're exciting."
Exciting enough, apparently, to motivate some Rangers fans to make an investment in coming to see them play on perhaps the biggest stage in the game.
Rush Olson is creative director, media, for the Texas Rangers. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.