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VOL. 130 | NO. 155 | Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

Baseball’s Missed Chances

By LANCE WIEDOWER

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It is said that success in sports sometimes comes down to a matter of inches.

And in sports hero worship, the saying is apropos.

Back in 1991, I was a 14-year-old kid making my first visit to a Major League Baseball game. It was in Arlington Stadium, the dump of a home park of my favorite team, the Texas Rangers.

For me, it was heaven. It was a handful of weeks after my sports hero, Nolan Ryan, had thrown his seventh career no-hitter, a record that is sure to never be touched.

No, he wasn’t pitching on this night. But to be in the same park where he threw that no-hitter was enough for me.

Growing up a baseball fan, it’s a little boy’s dream to meet his hero.

So fast forward nearly 20 years and to my son’s first Major League Baseball game, this time next door in the newer Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The old dump, well, it’s now a parking lot and the setting for the ultimate near-miss.

My family of three was attending the game with a cousin and her son. Said cousin – she knows who she is but will remain nameless for this story – was kind enough to drive us to the game.

As we neared the ballpark entrance minutes before first pitch she stopped in her tracks.

“I don’t think I locked the doors,” she said. “We have to go back.”

I ran back to the car while moms and kids went to the park.

A few minutes later I found myself settling into our bleacher seats next to the home bullpen just as the game was getting underway. And, as usual, I somehow beat the family to the seats.

But what wasn’t usual would come minutes later as my son ran up and screamed, “I just saw Nolan Ryan! Ha!”

My wife approached with a nervous look on her face. She cautiously told the tale of how they were within inches of Nolan Ryan as he exited his car for the game while I was back at ours checking on the doors.

Back in 1993 my parents treated my brother and I with a summer vacation in Dallas. We played at Six Flags and we went to a couple of Rangers games. Best of all, that first game was Nolan’s first back from a long stint on the disabled list. Somehow, my mother with limited knowledge of baseball, managed to secure tickets to the Ryan Express’ first game back from the DL during his final season.

I couldn’t believe the luck when it was announced a couple of weeks prior that Nolan would be making the start during our game.

Five-plus innings and six strikeouts later and I could forever say I saw my hero pitch. The next night I thought he’d come over to the wall where a bunch of us kids were standing, hoping for an autograph. It didn’t happen, and another missed opportunity.

“Ha ha, Dad missed Nolan Ryan,” laughed my son. Yeah, twice.

Oh, and the car doors? Yeah, they were locked.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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