June 18th, 2014

Remembering Richard Durrett

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“A measure of a life is it’s service.”- General Sam Houston

This is the motto at Sam Houston State University, which is the first college I attended after graduating from Plano Senior High School in 2010 and staying home for a year of basic courses at Collin College. I was a typical kid just trying to figure out his place in the world. The Texas Rangers were nearly atop the baseball world, the SuperBowl made it’s way to Arlington, the Dallas Mavericks were preparing for what would be the biggest ride in the history of the franchise. The times were pleasant ones in DFW.

This story, however, begins in 2008. It begins far away from the depths of the American Airlines Center or the press box at Globe Life Park in Arlington. First, I’d like to get something straight, and that’s that this story is not about me, or my life, or about the local teams that have propelled me to thousands of cheers and plenty of tears. It’s about Richard Durrett.

My father passed away in January of 2008 and my world was rocked. A sophomore in high school at the time, I had no idea of what to turn to. Faith was one of those things and sports was the other. I focussed nearly all of my time and attention to what was going on with the Rangers and the Stars. Josh Hamilton busted onto the scene, Mike Modano and Marty Turco were fueling a deep run into the Western Conference Finals, and the Cowboys were just coming off of a thrilling 13-3 season so there was plenty to talk about.

Richard was one of the guys that I listened to. Richard was one of the voices that I needed to hear. Richard was a guy that helped me day-to-day, and he didn’t even know it.

I developed a passion for the games that I spent hours and hours watching rather than doing my homework. Richard’s insight and love for his career made a lasting impact on me. I’ve told countless people, “I want to be just like Richard Durrett one day.”

Let me just say that it takes an outstanding person to be close to the man the Richard was, and in the wake of his death I find myself coming back to this quote.

“A measure of a life is it’s service.”

The first time I met Richard was at a Dallas Stars practice. I played the role of ‘rookie reporter’ as I was a one-man-band trying to get solid content for a news package, and Richard played the same role that he always had, which was the all-around good guy. I always found joy in reading his articles, but getting a chance to meet him was a whole new ballgame for this young kid. I can’t remember exactly what I said to get the conversation started, but nonetheless, we spoke for around five minutes and he encouraged me to email him with any questions I had for him in regards to getting a career started in the business. I emailed him a few weeks later asking if he had some time to meet up over lunch and no reply came. About two weeks passed and I figured he was too busy to meet up, which I completely understood. After all, I’m just a college kid. He probably doesn’t have time for me anyways, right?

Wrong.

I remember getting an email back from him during one of my shifts at the Academy Sports and Outdoors in Lewisville, Texas. After quickly checking my phone, and knowing I could be fired for being on it while at work, I pretended to organize the baseball gloves, but instead read his email and replied back promptly. Happiest moment I ever had during my time at Academy.

He agreed to meet up before one of his radio shows, ‘Turf Talk with Morris Claiborne’, which was recorded at a local restaurant in Frisco, Texas. We planned to meet around 5:00 p.m. because I wanted to make sure he had enough time to get his stuff ready for the show, but I was too excited and showed up at 4:15. I guess I needed enough time to get myself ready to meet with one of my heroes.

5:00 p.m. finally came and the anticipation began to grow. 5:15? No Richard. 5:30? Nope. 5:45? Nada.

I was bummed, man. His show started in fifteen minutes and I had a feeling I wasn’t going to get to meet with him. Surely enough, however, Richard arrived in time for his show. Fully-prepared to go on the air with Morris for a full hour, he assured me that he had time after the show to hang around and chat as long as I still could. Hmmm.

“You got it, dude. See you later and have a good show,” I said.

I never had the pleasure to work with Richard day-to-day so I can’t say that I’m as familiar with him as the other writers in the DFW area are, but the 45 minute talk we had after that show told me all that I needed to know about the man that he was.

He was dedicated to his craft and he was one of the best at it. He was a caring father and a loving husband. He lit up the rooms he entered just by walking through the door, as opposed to providing light by simply exiting.

The last time I saw Richard was at the ballpark in Frisco. He was pleased to see that my hard work led to a Media Relations Internship with the Frisco RoughRiders. I guess his advice really did pay off for me, and words can’t describe how thankful I am for that.

“I want to be just like Richard Durrett one day.”

I’ll leave you with this. Every single day we are given the opportunity to make a difference. Should I hold the door for this person? They’re pretty far away. I guess I’ll pass. That person looks like they really need help, but man, I’m in a hurry. These are small things that don’t seem like they make a huge difference but they were so easy for Richard to do. What happens when you put them all together? The way I look at it eight small cracks in a wall add up to one big crack.

The passing of Richard Durrett will leave a very large crack in the hearts of many. I’d like to extend my thoughts and prayers to Richard’s family, his wife Kelly, and his two children, Owen and Alice. The same goes for all of his co-workers and to anyone that he made an impact on. Richard was a gift to everyone that knew him and he will be dearly missed.

What happened to Richard and his family is not fair. I encourage all of us to remember Richard and the things he did for us, the things he taught us, and for us to be thankful and happy for the times we had with him.  Even though at times we see Angels in the outfield at the ballpark, we now have our own angel in the press box.

-Cameron Varnau

RoughRiders Awards: First-Half

The Frisco RoughRiders played fantastic baseball over the course of the first half of the 2014 Texas League campaign, and their efforts earned them their eighth post-season berth in club history. The club’s 40-29 record was propelled by a combination of superb pitching, timely hitting and a cast of unlikely heroes. Let’s take a look at some of the individuals who propelled Frisco in the opening half.

Phil Klein pitching during one of his 22 first-half games.

Phil Klein pitching during one of his 22 first-half games.

Best Pitcher: RHP Phil Klein

Phil Klein proved to be a necessary function out of Jason Wood’s bullpen during the first-half and his pitching earned himself a trip to the 2014 Texas League All-star game. Klein posted a 3-0 record with a dominant 0.86 ERA in his 22 appearances. The tall right-hander was 8-for-8 in save opportunities and in 31.1 total innings pitched Klein allowed three earned runs on 15 base hits. The Columbus, Ohio, native struck out 44 hitters and walked 18, while opponents only managed to bat .147. His WHIP was a shade under one at 0.93.

Tomas Telis quickly became a threat in the middle of the Frisco order.

Tomas Telis quickly became a threat in the middle of the Frisco order.

Best Hitter: C Tomas Telis

The switch-hitting catcher utilized his ability to make contact frequently and smashed 63 hits with a .321 batting average in 51 games. He scratched across 22 runs for Frisco and popped 13 doubles with two triples and two homers, while assisting the team with 28 RBI. He gets the award for best hitter because it seemed like he was the guy to come up with timely hits game-to-game, and his efforts awarded him a trip to the 2014 Texas League All-Star game.

Odubel gets ready to fire over to first during warmups.

Odubel gets ready to fire over to first during warmups.

Best Defender: INF Odubel Herrera

Odubel began the season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and was called up May 12.  Since that time, Herrera has become a reliable infielder for the RoughRiders. He has not been charged with an error since returning to the Texas League in 2014, and his total statistics earned him a trip to the league’s All-Star game as a replacement for Rougned Odor. Herrera began to swing a hot bat towards the second portion of the first-half as he finished to hit .324 with 36 hits in 111 at bats with 17 RBI.

Guilder Rodriguez always shows up ready to play.

Guilder Rodriguez always shows up ready to play.

Team Leader: INF Guilder Rodriguez

Guilder Rodriguez was a critical factor in the team’s success during the first-half of the campaign due to his outstanding teamwork and work ethic. Rodriguez has spent time between Frisco and Round Rock during parts of his six-year stint in the Texas Rangers organization, including this season where he was promoted to Triple-A for a total of nine games. ‘G-Rod’ returned to the ‘Riders on May 15 and since then he’s continued to be a classy veteran that young guys can learn from. He’s done it with both his voice and his tools as Rodriguez batted .341 with 44 hits and 18 runs scored over the course of 34 games. Rodriguez’s work earned him his first Texas League All-Star game appearance.

Jake gets ahold of a pitch during a contest against the Springfield Cardinals.

Jake gets ahold of a pitch during a contest against the Springfield Cardinals.

MVP: OF Jake Smolinski 

It was difficult to encounter a game during the first-half in which Jake Smolinski’s name was not mentioned, whether it was for offensive or defensive efforts. ‘Smo’ crushed the competition by hitting .275 with 69 hits and 42 runs scored in 68 games for the RoughRiders. He put on an excellent display of power by pounding 14 doubles, three triples and ten home runs with 35 RBI. Jake also made incredible defensive plays in left field to keep his team either in the game or out in front when it mattered most.

We can’t go without giving respect to the other outstanding members of this club such as INF Ryan Rua, RHP Luke Jackson or OF Jake Skole. Baseball is a team sport and all 25 men in the Frisco RoughRiders’ clubhouse were needed to secure the franchises eighth post-season berth. Here’s to more terrific performances and to an awesome second-half!

-Cameron Varnau

‘Riders Rewind – June 17

Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

The second half began in the same way the first half ended for the RoughRiders. Click here to read the full game recap.

The RoughRiders have lost three in a row for the third time this season. They dropped a trio April 5-7 and lost three consecutive to the Missions at Wolff Stadium May 17-19.  Frisco has not been swept in a series this year, an instrumental factor in its standing atop the Texas League. The ‘Riders thus far have been able to avoid the long losing skid.

Of course, last night’s results and indeed, baseball as a whole, seem shallow in the face of Richard Durrett’s passing yesterday afternoon. His presence is already missed. Be sure to read Alex’s eulogy to Richard on the ‘Riders Insider Blog.

Star of the Game: 2B Odubel Herrera – 2/4, RBI

Odubel’s run-scoring single in the sixth inning broke an stretch of 18 scoreless frames for the ‘Riders. He also reached on an infield base knock in the eighth inning to load the bases as Frisco attempted to piece together a rally. Through 59 games played in 2014 (29 with Myrtle Beach and 30 with Frisco), the Venezuelan is batting .314 with 40 runs scored and 29 driven in.

In case you missed it:

-The opponent has scored first in all seven games of the road trip thus far.

-Midland’s Anthony Aliotti continued his romp against the RoughRiders with a double, a home run and two RBI. For the series, Aliotti is 7-for-11 with four runs, three doubles, two home runs, four RBI, a walk and three strikeouts.

-Gallo watch: 1-for-3, 2BB, K; Gallo has drawn six walks in the series (two per game) and now has nine free trips with the RoughRiders alongside 13 strikeouts.

-LHP Will Lamb made his RoughRiders debut and pitched one scoreless inning. The 6-foot-6 180 pound hurler allowed one hit, one walk and tossed (surprise!) one strikeout.

-The RoughRiders outhit Midland 9-8, but left 13 men on base.

Our pregame interview with outfielder Teodoro Martinez details Teo’s approach at the plate (as evidenced by his .310 batting average) and his rooting interests in the World Cup. His answer may surprise you:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

Remembering Richard Durrett

Last night I received a text message in the last segment of our postgame show out here in Midland.  We were playing a highlight at that particular moment so I had time to look at the preview of the text before going back on the air.  In the limited space given to a partial message, it read, “Richard Durrett collapsed and died…”  I didn’t have time to really take that in until I went off the air a couple minutes later.  I’m not sure if I can still synthesize that news 16 hours later.

Yesterday we lost a friend.  I say that as an individual and for the Frisco RoughRiders organization.  Yes, Richard came to our games to cover Rangers rehabbers and interview big prospects that passed through Dr Pepper Ballpark.  He was out at the park just last week to interview Joey Gallo. He was one of the television color partners for me and my predecessor Aaron Goldsmith over the past few years.

But he also was a regular as a fan.  I helped him with tickets for his wife and kids regularly, and also when he had extended family in town and was looking for something to do with him.  Whenever he was at our games as a fan, he’d come up to the booth and do an inning with me to talk about the Rangers.  He never had to do that and I never asked, as I respected the time he wanted to spend with his family.  But that helps sum up what knowing Richard was all about.  He was selfless and committed, and he is already sorely missed.

When he joined me the on the television broadcasts, he did his homework, which was impressive for someone who covers a team of much greater importance in the grand scheme of things.  He made sure to talk to our manager and whichever roving instructor was in town to learn the latest about the better-known players and prospects on the team.  But he also took the time to learn more about journeyman players like Kevin Pucetas and got the inside scoop that he was going to debut his knuckleball in a game we did on TV last summer.  Wouldn’t you know, in the fourth inning we saw the knuckler for the first time all season and because of Richard’s diligence, we were prepared to talk about it.  I would imagine that is just a small example of his tenacity as a reporter.

I really enjoyed calling games with him.  He truly got into the game situations and would do an outstanding job breaking down the action we watched unfold.  I think this was because, in addition to his baseball expertise, he was just a sports fan who loved the on-field competition.  That’s something Richard and I have in common.

We were going over our TV schedule just a few weeks ago and trying to map out which games he would join me in the booth over the remainder of the season.  We scheduled him more for two more games in July, but he was disappointed he couldn’t do more because of conflicts with his Rangers schedule.  Selfless and committed.

In addition to his devotion to his family, I will remember the small moments among our many interactions over the last two and a half years.  Having lunch with him at Rudy’s in Frisco and randomly spotting Craig James at a table across the room.  Him asking about my family and girlfriend and my plans for the future.  Introducing him to my interns and assistants over the years, with whom he would freely dispense career advice or simply talk sports.

Maybe we shared a connection as current and former minor league baseball play-by-play broadcasters (Richard did a stint in short-season ball after graduating from college).  Maybe it’s because he was just a good and decent person and that’s the way his relationships were with everyone he interacted with in life.  Regardless, I’m going to miss him terribly and already do.  I am sick that he is no longer with us in this world, playing catch with his young son or spending time with the rest of his family.

This is not an easy day for any of us that knew Richard or even took in his work online, in print, on the radio or on television.  If there is anything to be taken from his sudden and shocking passing it may be for all of us to try our best to be like more him; to try to be as devoted to our family, and to try to be selfless and committed, like Richard was.

For now, we offer our prayers, thoughts and condolences to the Durrett family.  We miss you, Richard.

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Today the Texas Rangers announced the establishment of the “Richard Durrett Family Fund.”  From the Rangers’ press release:

Donations can be made at texasrangers.com/foundation or through the mail at Richard Durrett Family Fund, Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, 1000 Ballpark Way, Suite 400, Arlington, TX 76011.  Donations made through the Rangers Foundation in his memory will be directed to the Richard Durrett Family Fund.

Donations can also be made to the Richard Durrett Family Fund, c/o Liberty Bank, 3880 Hulen Street, suite 100, Fort Worth, TX 76107 or at any of their five metroplex locations.

 

-          Alex

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