THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 13, 2008
I put together a list in 2005 of the 12 things I was most looking forward to seeing when I got to Surprise. I came up with a list of 20 things in 2006. (Don’t know why I forgot to do it last year.) Add them and you get 32, which happens to be the number on Josh Hamilton’s back, permitting me to once again find a way to stick Hamilton in the lead and to scare up a list of the 32 things I can’t wait to see when I get to Rangers camp in Surprise:
1. Elvis Andrus and Engel Beltre, just to be sure I wasn’t seeing things in October. Jorge Quintero, too, for that matter.
2. Thomas Diamond, reasserting himself while nobody is looking.
3. Neftali Feliz.
4. Jason Botts, on one side of the complex or the other, in one shade of blue or another.
5. Josh Rupe, my pitching sleeper for 2008.
6. Whatever super-turbo-groovy kicks A.J. Preller is sporting these days.
7. A chance to talk to Chris Davis to figure out at what point his boyhood dreams were surpassed by the reality of the last month. German Duran, too.
8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, making a late rush. Luis Mendoza finishing what he’s started. (Kyle Lohse? No, thanks.)
9. David Murphy, continuing to quietly do his thing.
10. Michael Young becoming more and more like Don Mattingly was, and Ian Kinsler becoming more and more like Michael Young is.
11. The March 2008 version of March 2004 Ian Kinsler. I’m not sure who it will be, but it won’t surprise me if in a week I’m putting my money on Cristian Santana.
12. C.J. Wilson, using adversity to his advantage on the mound. Channeling, I think it’s called.
13. Kea Kometani, whose increasingly legitimate velocity and consistently nasty splitter belong on someone far less unassuming than he is. Root for that guy.
14. Brandon Boggs, perhaps the most unfairly overlooked player in the system.
16. Taylor Teagarden at full strength, I hope.
17. A sense that Joaquin Arias hasn’t given up.
18. Milton Bradley, leading as he can. He’s a baseball player.
(From today’s Star-Telegram feature penned by Jeff Wilson: “You’ll probably see me with [Josh Hamilton] all the time because I’m drawn to him,” Bradley said Wednesday. “Once I got to talking to him, and found out about his life and things he has to deal with every day, I kind of understand where he’s coming from.” Bradley said Hamilton has inspired him to return to studying the Bible and attending services.)
19. Wilmer Font, Julio Borbon, Michael Main, Max Ramirez, and Tommy Hunter. Lots.
20. As many conversations with Don Welke as he’ll tolerate.
21. Nolan Ryan, watching the Texas Rangers with as great a hope and confidence as any of us have that things are headed in the right direction, and with as great a passion as any of us have to see this team win.
22. Blake Beavan and Neil Ramirez, neither of whom I got to see pitch at Instructs.
23. The look in Eric Hurley’s eyes, which has been different, and better, every March that I’ve seen him take the mound.
24. Johnny Whittleman and Michael Schlact, two players whose standing among the Rangers prospect hierarchy seems to have waned, but only because of the dramatic, headline-y influx of high-end prospects in June’s draft and July’s trading season. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be on everyone’s watch list.
25. Johan Yan, hopefully looking less raw with those sick skills. It’s time.
26. Zach Phillips and Derek Holland, either of whom could be a year or two away from being Matt Harrison.
27. This rumor that Franklyn German has found command.
28. Fabio Castillo, of course.
29. The booth alongside Victor Rojas for Monday’s webcast, weather permitting.
30. Speaking of which, a couple mistaken weather forecasts for Sunday and Monday would suit me just fine.
31. Erica and Max, hopefully having half as good a time as they’ve been anticipating for weeks.
32. Josh Hamilton. In batting practice and in games, at the plate and in center field. Interacting with fans 20 years his junior and with his teammates of three months who have accepted him unconditionally, as one of them. Doing everything loudly between the lines, quietly outside them. Helping redefine what the Texas Rangers plan to be about, with all of us watching intently.
I want to see for myself what exactly he’s able to leap in a single bound.
For a few years now I’ve been saying this is my favorite time of the year. But I’m (patiently) counting on Hamilton being part of a core of players suiting up for my team who, before too much longer, lead us to a much better time of the year.