Preparing for the Rangers Winter Caravan’s stop at the Academy Sports + Outdoors on South Broadway, members of the 2013 Texas Rangers were loose and relaxed, checking out the golf clubs on display behind them.
Justin Grimm took a few practice swings; Mike Olt juggled a golf ball with an iron.
The scene epitomized the feeling around Rangers Ballpark, where this year’s team has new faces, but is confident and eager to get back on the field, where it expects to again be contenders.
“Obviously, we’ve made some big changes and lost some important guys, but I think as a group going into the season we’re all pretty confident,” said Olt, the 2012 Tom Grieve Rangers Minor League Player of the Year. “We still have the same goal; we still want to get to the World Series and win it. We’re going to have a different group of guys, but there’s still part of that core here and that is what makes everything easier in the club house.”
Speaking of Grieve, the Rangers TV announcer was in town as well, along with lefty reliever Michael Kirkman and first base coach Dave Anderson.
The five Rangers who signed autographs for an hour were welcomed to the Rose City by a throng of fans that stretched around Academy.
Just as the fans were excited to meet the Rangers, the players were excited about the upcoming season.
Though Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels, Michael Young was traded to Philadelphia and Mike Napoli went to Boston, Texas brought in Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski.
“Expectations are still the same — we still want to win; we want to win every game we play,” said Kirkman, who pitched 38.1 innings in the Rangers bullpen last year. “It might be a little different starting out, but that’s what we have spring training for: We can all get to know each other and gel as a team.”
While much of the offseason focus has been on AL West rivals Los Angeles and defending AL champion Oakland, Texas opens the season against new divisional rival Houston.
Grimm just so happened to start his MLB career against the Astros, an 8-3 win on June 16.
“I haven’t really put much thought into it; maybe it makes the rivalry a little bigger,” said Grimm, who will compete for a spot in the starting rotation. “I think it’ll be interesting to see. (We’ll) just look at it as any other team. For me personally, I look at any game as a big game.”
Olt, who said he’s completely recovered from a foot injury, said he’s working hard to improve his game and he’s confident going into the 2013 season. Joining the organization in 2010, he watched the Rangers grow into a contender year after year.
“It’s going to be a championship team,” Olt said.
Grimm echoed those sentiments. Relaxed and ready to play, the Rangers are looking forward to 2013.
“I think we’ve got a chance to win a lot of ballgames — Lance Berkman is a great addition,” Grimm said. “I think we can do special things with the team we have.
“It’s going to be hard to replace 40 home runs, 200-some RBIs, but you just find ways to win ball games.”