Thoughts on Newberg Report Night.

It was our best Newberg Report Night yet, by any measure other than the score of the ballgame, an awesome and sometimes overwhelming display of baseball acumen and generosity, and I couldn’t say it any better than Jason Parks did, and so I won’t try.

You look at the path that Jon Daniels and Thad Levine took to get where they are, and that Kevin Goldstein and Jason took themselves, and you might be reminded of the trajectory the Rangers franchise itself is on right now, after so many years, having reached a level once and for all that puts it in that preferred tier with the added promise of some staying power.  Having the four of them in the room at once, connecting with us, made for a tremendous day, outdone only by the kindness of the nearly 400 folks who were there not only for baseball but for something much bigger as well.

For recaps of the Goldstein/Parks and Daniels/Levine Q&A’s, check out the review written by Grant Schiller and the two-parter by Tim Darley.  For thoughts on the day itself, I point you to the words that Jason shared on his extraordinary site, reprinted here with his permission:

Newberg Night in Arlington

I arrived at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington a little after 2:30CT on Sunday afternoon, nervously anticipating my role in the now ubiquitous fan event.  It was over 100 degrees outside with enough humidity to keep your skin damp, and I was wearing long-sleeves, long pants, and cowboy boots.  I was sweating for multiple reasons.

Before I jumped into the “baseball industry,” I was a fan of the Texas Rangers; I grew up in North Texas, and some of my fondest memories of childhood revolved around watching the team.  As I advanced in age, the subsequent advancement of technology allowed me to follow the team in stunning detail, and by the early 2000s, I was freebasing online Rangers content with every available second.  Jamey Newberg was (and still is) the face of that content, encouraging and guiding fans of the team in their exploration of all things Rangers, starting at the minor league level and climbing the professional chain to the major league team.  With his (Jamey) website, his daily email blasts, and his annual book, fans of the team were given a new window of information to digest, turning casual fans into true fanatics and some fanatical fans into true lunatics.  I was hooked from jump street, and I used the aforementioned resources to push myself forward in the field, with Jamey (and Mike Hindman, Scott Lucas, Joey Matschulat, etc) standing behind me, encouraging my search for the source.  Basically, I owe a great deal to Jamey, his reports, the people who help (have helped) with those reports, and the people who read those reports.

I was nervous coming into the day because this was a homecoming of sorts for me, and I didn’t want to let my fellow Texans down.  I wanted to shine on the big stage with my new national title, and I wanted to keep my “rise” in proper perspective.  Just a few years ago I would have been one of the 300+ people trying to get a ticket to such an event, and now I’m on the panel, talking to Jon Daniels, receiving questions and compliments, shaking hands and feeling like I belong.  It’s been a strange voyage.  Anyway, with my nerves and self-inflicted responsibilities on my sleeve, I walked from the parking lot to the stadium to meet up with Kevin Goldstein, my podcast partner and good friend.  He was smoking a cigarette in the humid blowtorch that is a Texas afternoon, sweating and exhaling smoke like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now*.  It was an interesting start to the day’s events.

[*Kevin often makes the Apocalypse Now reference for this scenario, so I’ll go ahead and give him credit for it.]

The queue was already forming outside the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame entrance, with a sea of red blanketing the backs of the loyal participants.  These were the kind of fans that every organization in professional sports covet.  These fans were engaging in an Alamo-esque display of loyalty and defense.  These are the fans that stand on the wall and fight to the death with the barrel of their ammo-free musket.  Yes, I just compared Rangers’ fans to those that died at the Alamo.  It seemed fitting to me.  I was so impressed with the turnout (from my initial perspective) that I was in awe.  The game wasn’t set to begin for almost five hours, yet the fans were lining up to pack an auditorium in order to show support for their team.  It was incredible.

After finding friendly faces likes Jamey, Scott, and Ted Price, I found more comfort in the surroundings, and in only a few short minutes, the jam packed room would erupt with questions and flash bulbs, with a focused attention on Kevin and me standing at the podium.  Right before we stepped to the microphone to begin our makeshift comedy hour, Jamey gave us a more than proper introduction, one that still sits with me as I type this.  As I mentioned, Jamey has been very instrumental in my career, pushing me to follow my dreams and supporting my decisions and accomplishments at every turn along the way.  After he inflated my ego with his charming intro, Jamey walked to my location on the panel, extended his hand, and we engaged in an unspoken conversation about the events unfolding.  His handshake told me his thoughts, and my return volley told him how much I appreciated his support.  It was a very cool moment that will get lost in the process of writing, so I’ll just leave it as it is.  It meant something to me.

The questions started with one nervous hand and quickly dominoed into a crowd of extended hands, asking detailed question after detailed question.  The time flew by and before I realized it, we were down to the final exchange.  After our segment, I was exhausted and exhilarated, moved by the response and impressed by the intelligence of the questions being asked.  These were RoboFans, fans with detailed knowledge of the Rangers’ farm system and the passion to demand a quality response.  You couldn’t fool these people with misdirection or surface responses.  They wanted the goods.  They expected the goods.  For our little section, I hope we delivered.

The rest of the event was equally effectual, especially when baseball took a back-seat to personal tales of survival and hardship, as several voices stood up to share their brush with tragedy and struggle, putting all of our hearts in our throats, and making us all realize how lucky we are to be healthy.  The room found a common pulse in the heartfelt moments, and I’d personally like to thank the people associated with the Hello Win Column foundation for everything they do in this world.  If you have the means and are looking for a charity to support, I can’t speak highly enough about who they are and what they do for people.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur for me, as my adrenaline reserves were spent, and I was lost in a cloud of my surroundings.  I was out in the hall shaking hands and meeting people who took the time to extend their over-the-top courtesy, when Rangers general manager Jon Daniels walked up and extended his own hand and his own courtesy.  I’ve had the privilege of meeting JD a few times in the past, but this was different, and the cloud I was in grew more opaque.  Seriously?  I’m on a panel with Kevin Goldstein and Jon Daniels, in front on a frenzied and intelligent crowd of Rangers fanatics, and I was asked to be here?  Seriously?  In a word, that’s awesome.

After Jon Daniels held the room captive for more than an hour, the crowd eagerly lined up to ask more questions and offer more thoughtful greetings, making the conclusion to the Q&A all the more memorable.  It was time to move into the suites to watch the game, but I was still drifting above the scene, trapped in my own head.  What a day so far, and the game was still a few minutes from first pitch.  I didn’t want it to end.  Along with my lovely wife Arden and my lovely podcast partner Kevin, I found my way to the Johnny Bench suite to join good friends for an evening of baseball.

The night continued to find a way to trump itself, as chili dogs and beer soon graced my plate, followed by more beer and more great conversation.  As people continued to find their way into the suites and into the discourse, the level of said discourse continued to escalate, as I eventually found myself discussing art and music as well as baseball.  I stumbled upon a longtime Newberg Report supporter, Michael Durkin, who owns two pizzerias in the metroplex and I can’t hype him enough.  Seriously, the next trip to watch the RoughRiders needs to feature a stop at Durkin’s Pizza.  This isn’t optional.

It’s now Tuesday afternoon, and I still can’t find the right words to describe my experience(s) at Newberg Night.  It’s not an adventure I want to force myself to digest with reckless abandon, especially for the purpose of delivering it using this medium.  I was very touched by the fan reaction to my appearance, but also to the fans themselves, as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was alive with energy and emotion, and it was a very hot Sunday night in late-July.  Some of my thoughts are going to remain inside, as I selfishly want them for myself, but the ones I can properly articulate were delivered to the best of my ability here.  I can’t thank Jamey enough for his support over the years, or for his belief that I could sit on a panel with the likes of Jon Daniels, and Thad Levine, and Kevin Goldstein without standing out as the one that didn’t belong.  For that, and everything else, I tip my cap and offer my most heartfelt respect and appreciation for what you do.  That goes for all the fans in attendance as well.  The Rangers might have the best fans in the business, and I never thought I would be able to say that.  Impressive.

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