Second Inning Slide (Again)

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.

Well, this story line is officially past its expiration date. Another quirky second inning seemed to knock the RoughRiders off balance and Arkansas inflicted a rare series loss upon Frisco at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Click here to read the full game recap.

For the second straight night, a costly defensive miscue in the second inning nipped the ‘Riders. With a runner on first, a fielding error on Guilder Rodriguez placed two men on with no outs. The next batter, Eric Stamets, popped a towering fly ball that didn’t leave the infield.

The ball initially drifted towards Trever Adams at first base, but with 30-mph gusts blowing across the diamond from right to left, Adams soon embarked on a mad chase across the infield as the wind pushed the ball to the third base foul line.

Not only did the cowhide elude Adams’ glove, it landed fair in the dirt mere feet from the foul territory to load the bases.

Kyle Hudson followed and drove a grounder to second baseman Odubel Herrera on the edge of the outfield grass. The play would have likely scored a run regardless, but the ‘Riders at least had an opportunity to record the first out of the frame.

Instead, Adams broke off the first base bag upon contact in expectation of a bunt from Hudson. When Herrera fielded the ball, Adams was nowhere near the bag and Herrera had to eat the ball and all Travelers were safe once again.

Frisco turned a double play later in the inning, which would have ended the Travs’ chances had an out been made on the Hudson ground ball. Arkansas scored another run on the twin killing and took the lead for good.

Star of the Game: CF Ryan Strausborger – 3/4, R, 3B

Ryan scored the first ‘Riders run for the second straight night. He flashed his speed on the base path with a leadoff triple in the first inning and again in sixth when he moved from first to third in on a base knock by Patrick Cantwell. “Straus” is 7-for-12 through his first three games in a RoughRiders’ uniform this season with three runs, a double, a triple, a home run and four RBI. The centerfielder also notched an outfield assist when he threw out Brian Hernandez at third base in the eighth inning.

In case you missed it:

-The RoughRiders lost a series at home for the first time since April 7. The opponent? Arkansas.

-Patrick Cantwell threw out two would-be basestealers on Friday. The Travelers rank second in the Texas League in stolen bases, but succeeded just once in the series.

-Frisco had a chance to score in the third. With Strausborger on second base and two outs, Cantwell bounced a grounder to short. An errant throw allowed Cantwell to reach, but the Travs escaped the inning because they caught Strausborger in a rundown between third and home. Strausborger may have taken the play for granted and assumed Cantwell would be thrown out, and thus overran third.

-Gallo watch: 0-for-4, 3SO

-Former RoughRider Mike Bianucci posted a modest 3-for-4 line with a run last night. Bianucci turned in perhaps the most impressive offensive series against the ‘Riders this season. In three games, the slugger batted 8-for-13 with six runs, two doubles, a home run and three RBI.

 

 

I had the chance to chat with Assistant Hitting Coordinator Brook Jacoby on Friday. Jacoby, a two-time MLB All-Star, joined the minor league staff this season after a seven-year run as the hitting coach for Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds (think Joey Votto, Ken Griffey, Jr., Scott Rolen, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, etc.). He draws some interesting parallels between hitters in both places. Lots of insight in this interview:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

Second Inning Shift

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.

Arkansas’ bats exploded for 18 hits against the RoughRiders and the Travs evened the series at a game apiece heading into the Friday night finale. Click here to read the full game recap.

The Travelers came to play, but in a second consecutive outing, Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez couldn’t seem to catch a break. Corpus Christi dinged him for 12 soft singles on June 20. Last night, it was a rough second inning that turned the course of the RoughRiders’ night permanently against their favor.

Mike Bianucci kept one ball in the infield on Thursday, but still managed to reach in the second on a fielding error by Joey Gallo. The third baseman charged slow grounder but came up with an empty glove as he went into the throwing motion.

Gonzalez then hit the next batter, Jett Bandy, with a pitch to put two on with nobody out. Home plate umpire Matt Czajak made a belated ruling after Bandy was halfway down the first base line. The hesitation peeved Jason Wood, who offered some demonstrative words to Czajak before returning to the dugout. Perhaps the exchange rattled Czajak, who made a poor call with significant ramifications later in the frame.

The ‘Riders managed to turn a double play to pick up two outs as a runner traveled to third. But after Kaleb Cowart tied the game with an RBI double, Czajak ruled a bouncer from Drew Heid on the third base line fair, which gave Arkansas a lead they would not relinquish.

From the press box the outfield berm, the ball appeared to cross wide of third base, but the only pair of eyes in the park that didn’t see it as such happened to be the home plate umpire. From the moment Wood emerged from the dugout for the second time in the inning, everyone understood his night was about to end. Sure enough, Czajak tossed Wood and the Travelers held the momentum for the rest of the night. An unfortunate series of events for the RoughRiders, who got off to a good start with a Ryan Strausborger home run in the first inning.

Star of the Game: 3B Joey Gallo - 2/4, 2R, HR, 2B, RBI

Joey doubled to right and launched a 1-0 pitch from Carmine Giardina to the opposite field in the seventh. It had the height to clear the WinStar Diamond Deck but instead clanged off the tin roof and caromed back into the field of play. Scouts and coaches say Gallo’s power to the opposite direction is what will make him a terror to big league pitchers. He is far more complex than a mere pull-side slugger and he has shown it on multiple occasions this season. The proud Italian has seven Double-A homers and reclaims sole possession of first in the minors with 28 long balls in 2014.

In case you missed it:

-Teodoro Martinez drew the only walk of the game for either team in the seventh inning from Carmine Giardina.

-RoughRiders pitching allowed 18 hits, the most in a single game this season for the staff

-In 60 games in Triple-A, Strausborger had no home runs and no multi-RBI games. He has one home run and two multi-RBI nights in two games with Frisco this season.

-Former RoughRider Mike Bianucci ate his former team for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Thursday. He finished 4-for-5 at the plate with four runs, a double, a home run and three runs batted in.

Bianucci in his RoughRider days, circa 2011.

Bianucci in his RoughRider days, circa 2011.

 

 

Listen to catcher Tomás Telis regale his experience at the All-Star game and touch on modifications to his stance behind the dish:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders Rewind – June 25

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 ‘Riders reached the end of an exhausting 12-day road trip at long last on Sunday. Click here to read the full game recap.

Star of the Game: RHP Jerad Eickhoff - 7.0IP, 4H, R, 0BB, 6K

The sturdy right-hander from Evansville, Indiana turned in his third outing of seven or more outings this season and first since May 5. With a runner on third base in the fourth inning, Eickhoff chunked a pitch in the dirt that escaped the clutches of catcher Patrick Cantwell and brought home Arkansas’ only run of the game. The play seemed to light a fire under Jerad, who did not allow a baserunner the rest of his outing and retired the final 12 batters he faced in succession. The soon-to-be 24-year-old carries a 5-5 record with a 4.23 ERA through 83 innings.

In case you missed it:

-The RoughRiders are now 16-8 against the North Division this season. Every team in the South Division defeated its inter-divisional opponent on Wednesday.

-Five players in Frisco’s batting lineup last night debuted against the Travelers as the teams last met on April 15.

-Those five included Ryan Strausborger, who also made his 2014 Double-A debut, and went 2-for-4 with a run, a double and two RBI. It was his first multi-RBI game of the season.

-Fans may remember Arkansas DH Mike Bianucci, who played for the RoughRiders in 2011. More recently, Bianucci played at Dr Pepper Ballpark as a member of Triple-A Round Rock when the Express came to town for a preseason exhibition tilt on March 30. In that game, Bianucci blasted a home run and scored twice, but was released from the Rangers organization less than one week later.

 

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

Texas League All-Star Game Recap

The 2014 Texas League All-Star Game is in the books, which means we get to look at how the league-wide record ten RoughRiders faired in the contest.

Luke Jackson was the starting pitcher for the South All-Stars and did his job by striking out two of his three batters faced. In the top of the fourth Jake Smolinski moved Rhymer Liriano to third on a sharp ground ball out to third, and Liriano later scored to give the South a 1-0 lead.

The bottom half of that frame is one that Hooks pitcher Kyle Smith would like back as he issued a lead-off double to Brain Hernandez. Cody Stanley followed suit with a two-run homer and the North went out in front 2-1.

Alec Asher took the mound in the fifth for his first appearance in the league’s All-Star game and Brain Humphries greeted him with a double to centerfield. Cristhian Adames singled Humphries to third and a wild pitch by Asher gave the North an insurance run and a 3-1 lead.

Odubel Herrera singled to lead things off in the eighth, but a double play and a line drive out ended any chance of the South tying or re-taking the lead in the contest.

The ninth inning was similar to the eighth as a RoughRider (Smolinski) singled to begin the frame, but the North All-Stars held pat and escaped Dickey-Stephens Park with a 3-1 victory.

Here is how the other ‘Riders faired in the contest:

-LF Jake Smolinski: 1/4, SO

-3B Ryan Rua: 0/4, Home Run Derby Champion

  • Rua blasted a total of 16 home runs (eight in each round)

-DH/C Tomás Telis: 0/4

-PH Odubel Herrera: 1/1

-2B Guilder Rodriguez: 0/2, 2SO

-RHP Luke Jackson (starter): 1.0IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K, 3BF

-RHP Alec Asher: 1.0IP, R, 2H, 5BF, WP

-RHP Phil Klein: DNP

-LHP Edwar Cabrera: DNP

-2B Rougned Odor: DNP

 

‘Riders Rewind – June 22

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 ‘Riders reached the end of an exhausting 12-day road trip at long last on Sunday. Click here to read the full game recap.

Star of the Game: CF Teodoro Martinez – 1/3, R, HR, RBI, SO

Teo blasted his second home run of the season and accounted for all the scoring in the 4-1 loss on Sunday. Through 44 games this season, the Venezuelan holds a .298 batting average (45-for-151) with 15 runs, six doubles and 23 RBI.

In case you missed it:

The Texas League All-Star Game took place at Dickey-Stephens Field in North Little Rock, Arkansas on June 24. The RoughRiders sent a league-high ten players to compete in the game. The North defeated the South 3-1 in a pitching-oriented affair. Find out how the ‘Riders performed below:

-LF Jake Smolinski: 1/4, SO

-3B Ryan Rua: 0/4, Home Run Derby Champion

  • Rua blasted a total of 16 home runs (eight in each round)

-DH/C Tomás Telis: 0/4

-PH Odubel Herrera: 1/1

-2B Guilder Rodriguez: 0/2, 2SO

-RHP Luke Jackson (starter): 1.0IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K, 3BF

-RHP Alec Asher: 1.0IP, R, 2H, 5BF, WP

-RHP Phil Klein: DNP

-LHP Edwar Cabrera: DNP

-2B Rougned Odor: DNP

 

Here is Jason Wood’s most recent “Sunday with the Skipper” segment on the final day of the marathon 12-day road trip:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders Rewind – June 21

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 ‘Riders roll into the final game before the All-Star break on the strength of a 3-0 win over the Corpus Christi Hooks. Click here to read the full game recap.

Star of the Game: 3B Joey Gallo – 1/4, R, HR, 3RBI, 2K

Gallo homered for the second straight night and in seven career games against the Hooks, the mammoth slugger has gone deep four times. Corpus Christi starting pitcher Mike Hauschild carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning when the RoughRiders opened the inning with a pair of singles from Patrick Cantwell and Trever Adams, respectively. That brought Gallo to the plate, and on the first pitch from Hauschild, he deposited the offering on the right-center field berm for the only three runs of the game for either side.

Through 12 games with Frisco, Gallo posts a .279 batting average  (12-for-43) with ten runs, one double, six home runs and 14 runs driven in. He has drawn nine walks and has struck out 20 times.

In case you missed it:

-Frisco recorded all of their runs and hits in a single inning (the seventh). Corpus Christi outhit the ‘Riders 7-3 and Frisco left just one man on base in the game.

-The Hooks’ best chance to score came in the fifth inning with runners on the corners and one out. A poor bunt by Ruben Sosa enabled Alec Asher to field an throw home where Tomás Telis tagged out Tyler Heineman for a crucial second out.

-Corpus Christi relief pitcher Alex Sogard tossed one shutout inning against the RoughRiders in the ninth. Sogard’s older brother, Eric, is an infielder for the Oakland A’s.

-Cantwell spoiled Hauschild’s no-no in the seventh inning. The backstop also tarnished the perfect game when he drew a walk in the fourth. Through the first six frames, Cantwell was Frisco’s only baserunner.

-Phil Klein moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Texas League with his tenth save of the season.

-The 3-0 final score marked the eighth time Frisco has shut out an opponent. The ‘Riders are 8-3 in shutouts this season.

Be sure to catch this interview with Corpus Christi interim pitching coach Doug Brocail. Rangers fans may remember Brocail during his time in Arlington from 2004-2005. He shares some lighter moments of his career on the Pregame Show:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders Rewind – June 20

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.

Highlights from Frisco’s 4-1 loss to Corpus Christi on Friday. The RoughRiders have now lost four of their last five games. Click here to read the full game recap.

Star of the Game: 2B Odubel Herrera – 3/4, 2B

Odubel’s focus remains razor sharp at the plate as he and teammate Trever Adams were the only ‘Riders with multiple hits on Friday (and no strikeouts, either). The Venezuelan is hitting .319 this season, but . 339 with the Frisco through 32 games. He also has 9 doubles and 29 RBI on the season. Equally impressive is Odubel’s strikeout-to-walk rate: the southpaw has 28 free trips and just 41 whiffs in 2014.

In case you missed it:

-The Hooks registered 12 singles and no extra-base hits in the game.

-Trever Adams went 2-for-3 with a ground-rule double and a walk for his third straight multi-hit game.

-Gallo watch: 1-for-4, R, HR, RBI, 3K - Gallo launched his first home run since June 13 when he took a hanging breaking ball to left-center field in the second inning.

Newcomer Will Lamb makes his debut on the RoughRiders Pregame Show. The lefty aspires to own the best (worst?) mustache in the Texas League and has an equally filthy fastball:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

Finding Home

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By: Jay Wallis

Double-A baseball teams play 140 regular season games over a span of five months. The commitment goes far beyond this as players have spring training beforehand and possible postseason play afterward. To add to this, while it is too cold to play in America during the winter months, many players will travel and compete in offseason leagues overseas.

Professional baseball at any level requires dedication, sacrifice and effort to achieve sustained success. Challenges and changes inevitably emerge at any stage of a player’s career, whether in rookie ball or on the doorstep of a major league call-up.

Many players have to face these obstacles with their families scattered across the country or even the globe. However, in spite of distance and other obstacles, many RoughRiders make a diligent effort to keep their families as close as possible.

Frisco pitcher Kyle Lotzkar decided to forgo college and enter the amateur draft. The reliever was selected 53rd overall and took his talents to the Cincinnati Reds.

When Lotzkar was 17, he left his Canadian hometown of Tsawwassen to play pro ball in the United States. He traveled south to Sarasota, Florida to play for a Reds affiliate in a rookie league. Living out of a hotel with some teammates, Lotzkar wasn’t completely ready for his new life.

“During the first couple of months, I got homesick quick,” Lotzkar said. “Most guys were like three or four years older than me. Luckily, since I signed in the summer, I only had to play about four months and then I got back home. I’ve worked to stay in touch with my family ever since.”

As if the rigorous training a pitcher goes through wasn’t enough, the young Lotzkar had to push himself to work every day, literally.

“I didn’t have a car and didn’t have any money to start,” Lotzkar said, “We actually managed to find a really greasy, used car dealership and we rented a car for literally five bucks a day,” Lotzkar said. “It was something like an old 1996 Ford Explorer we’re driving around, and it’d barely even make it to the field. We ended up pushing it almost every other day just to get it started. So that’s kind of how we survived—we were paying five bucks a day for a rental car.”

Shortstop Guilder Rodriguez also came from a foreign country to play professional baseball in the U.S. Like Lotzkar, the Venezuelan veteran understands the value of an American dollar.

“During my first three or four years, I didn’t have a cell phone,” Rodriguez said. “Not too many players in rookie ball had cell phones. So I paid to use a phone card in a station for five dollars and it gave me five minutes for a call to Venezuela. I then had a fast conversation with my family and checked on my father, mother, brother and sisters. I tried to talk to everybody in my family for five dollars. It was crazy.”

Now in his 14th season, G-Rod has his own cell phone and is often seen talking to his family at the ballpark before games. The knowledge his family is back home rooting him on is the perfect drive to push through the long season.

“My father and my whole family are just happy because not too many players have the opportunity to play here for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “My father always told me, ‘I want to see you one day in the big leagues.’ He saw me and now sees me. It’s the dream.”

Even though Rodriguez has been able to fly his parents in from Venezuela a few times to see him play, not all his teammates are as fortunate.

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Edwar Cabrera isn’t here to just play baseball; the 26-year-old lefty is here to support his family back in the Dominican Republic. Cabrera has a dream of one day seeing his family in America, sitting in seats, watching him on the mound. This process, though, can be complicated.

“I really want to try and bring my family here so they can see me pitch,” Cabrera said. “It’s a little bit hard because in the Dominican, some people don’t have visas. I want them to all get visas one day, and I want to bring them all over here to watch.”

Cabrera doesn’t let this complication get in the way of hearing his mom’s advice. If you happen to be in the ballpark a few hours before a ‘Riders game, there is a good chance you’ll find Cabrera, headphones in, sitting near the batting cages attentively listening to his mom.

“I am always talking to my mom,” Cabrera said. “Every day, she says, ‘You have to think God first.’ He will take care of you. She reminds me to remember that no matter where you are or what level you are playing, tell yourself every single day that God comes first and then everything else second. That talk helps me get through everything.”

Whatever route they took along the way, these three have paved individual paths in order to reach their destination. Sometimes it has taken a little push to get an old car to the ballpark or a nudge from a family member thousands of miles away, but no matter the means, these RoughRiders have worked to maintain in Frisco what they left behind—home.

‘Riders Rewind – June 19

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.

A savvy veteran and a fortuitous bounce gave the RoughRiders their first win in extra innings this season. Click here to read the full game recap.

The victory Thursday night bore significance in several respects:

  1. The ‘Riders snapped a three-game losing streak. A fourth consecutive loss would have been the longest of the season for Frisco. They are now the only team without a skid of more than three games in 2014, needless to say, an instrumental factor in their standing atop the Texas League.
  2. Frisco won a series opener, not only for the first time on this marathon road swing, but also for the first time in the month of June. Prior to last night’s win, the ‘Riders dropped the opening game in the last five series. The last time the RoughRiders had started a series with a victory occurred on May 29 against the Tulsa Drillers.
  3. The RoughRiders are now 1-3 in extra innings. All four of the team’s extended affairs have played out on the road. Frisco has gone to overtime with all three teams in the South Division and twice with Corpus Christi. The Hooks own the Texas League’s best mark in extra innings at 8-2.

The ‘Riders are now 1-1 in the second half and 41-30 overall. Remember, the series finale on June 18 against the Midland RockHounds was postponed due to rain and will be played out as part of a doubleheader on July 22. Click here for details.

Star of the Game: RHP Jon Edwards – 2 1/3IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 4K

For all the offensive accolades in the game for the RoughRiders, Edwards’ performance on the mound bore a crucial impact in the win. Edwards entered with game in the balance and the momentum already shifted in Corpus Christi’s favor. In a disastrous seventh inning, the ‘Riders blew a 5-1 lead and allowed four runs to score on one hit, two hit batsmen and three walks. With no outs in the frame and runners on first and third, Edwards cooly retired three straight Hooks and preserved the tie. His slider was unhittable as he guided the RoughRiders through the eighth inning as well and recorded the first out of the ninth before Jason Wood brought lefty Will Lamb out of the pen. Edwards’ resurgence on the mound continues; according to Michael Tepid, Edwards has allowed one earned run with four walks and 16 strikeouts in his last eight appearances (12 1/3 innings).

In case you missed it:

-Frisco scored first for the first time on its current 12-game road swing. Thursday was the eighth game of the trip.

-Ryan Rua started in left field for the first time in 2014. He did not record a putout. Jason Wood lifted Rua from the game in the tenth and inserted Teodoro Martinez. With the game on the line, Wood did not want to charge Rua with making a key play at a new position.

-Gallo watch: 1-for-5, R, 2K – Gallo appeared frustrated with his timing at the plate, but looks comfortable in the field at the hot corner. He made three putouts on the night.

-Trever Adams has taken strides towards snapping his slump at the plate. Adams has consecutive multi-hit games and on Thursday went 3-for-4 with two runs, a double and a walk.

-Rua tallied three hits in a game for the fourth time this season and his three RBI gives him 38 on the season.

Alex Vispoli sits down with Corpus Christi broadcaster Michael Coffin and gets an inside scoop on the Hooks’ outlook for the second half as well as a look at the Astros prospects in the pipeline:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

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

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