We’ll be at Shooters Dallas for lunch today, hours after the kids returned to school and hours before the Rays return to Arlington for the first time since April, the second time since October.

We’ll be at Shooters because Ben and Skin are no longer on assignment in Southern California, dispatched to cover training camp in that sport that, in North Texas, used to be the only game in town by time back-to-school shopping was in full swing.

We’ll be there with Ben and Skin because two Rangers fans contributed a staggering amount of money to the Hello Win Column Fund and the Mike Coolbaugh Diamond Dreams Foundation a month ago at the Newberg Report Night auction, for the chance to have lunch with the ESPN Dallas duo.

We’ll be sitting in the shadow of the American Airlines Center, where pre-season hockey begins in a month and pre-season basketball begins a little bit after that.  We’ll be a couple doors down from a local news studio in Victory Park, where in past years most 10 p.m. sportscasts in August focused on the spirited competition for third-string quarterback and ended with something like, “Aaaaand the Rangers, riding out the string, lost again.  John, Gloria, back to you.”

When we get together we’ll probably talk about the Rays and the Angels and the A’s and what Texas should be doing at backup shortstop right now.  There might be a strain of angst over the lack of a true number one starter or a lineup situation or two, but that’s OK, because angst beats the tar out of apathy.  Before the last few years a similar August 27th conversation might have centered (wishfully) on who the Rangers might target this coming winter, or on some forced acronym that summed up the club’s farm system in three snappy letters, or on what went wrong this season and why, c’mon, no-seriously, things might finally turn around next year.

Not any more.

Summer vacation is over, but baseball is not, and this morning on the way to drop-off I stopped counting the kids in Rangers T-shirts because I think that might be prohibited in a school zone.

Today at Shooters, we’ll talk about those two huge catches, one of which he made while getting blindsided by a huge hit across the middle, and it will not be about Dwayne Harris, but instead about Craig Gentry.

The obligatory, patronizing punch line at the end of the nightly sportscast, if there must be one, is now reserved for a different franchise.

Tonight it’s Price and it’s Holland and the Castle Doctrine and a reminder of the last two Octobers and maybe a preview of the one that’s around the corner.  It’s late August and it’s baseball season, and the narrative, no matter what the network sales departments believe, ought to be not about one pre-season (or two others on the way), but instead about the post-season toward which a very steady and impressive march continues.

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