Sports Of All Sorts Scattered Between The Dots…………Elvis Andrus: Like A Kid In A Candy Store…………………….…….By RC

I have been a Michael Young fan for a long time. From the time that he became the Rangers shortstop, after the overpaid Alex Rodriguez bolted for the Big Apple to suit up in the pin stripes, I have more than admired #10. He proved very quickly after A-Rod left that the Rangers had probably improved themselves at shortstop and for sure had not lost any ground. Young made the move over to shortstop from second base in the 2004 season and played brilliantly, even being named the 2006 American League All Star Game MVP and driving in the winning run in the 2008 All Star Game………………………So in 2009 when the Rangers announced that Michael would be moved to third base from shortstop, I along with about 99% of all the other Ranger faithful was in disbelief. Not only was he playing “lights out” for the Rangers but making his mark in the all star game as well. What was going on here and also, who was the young phenom that was so gifted that it called for the move of a living legend to a new position: a move that he did not embrace?…………………..We soon learned that it was a young gun named Elvis Andrus, who had been acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Braves at mid-season of 2009. That move, by the way, had not set well with Ranger fans either. For one thing the most prominent name in that deal was the gifted first baseman, Mark Teixiera. Tex looked as though he would be around a long time to help lead the organization to the promise land……………………Disappointment and disgust was at a premium. And the guy who was the target of that disappointment and disgust was none other than the unproven GM of the organization; John Daniel. And the fact that Michael Young was in no mood to appease the brash young general manager only made matters worse……………………..After the loyal and sensible Nolan Ryan had a chance to visit with Michael he accepted the move and never looked back. But as the season began I could not help myself: I wanted the 20 year old Andrus to fail so that Young could once again thrill us all with his shortstop play. But it didn’t happen and we all soon learned why Elvis had been a part of the trade and why the Rangers were slobbering all over themselves while waiting for the arrival of a super talented farm hand……………Immediately he was showing off a skill set that few MLB shortstops have ever possessed. Could this kid cover the ground, make the unbelievable look routine, and do it all with a smile on his face! It was love at first sight and the fact that our hero, Michael Young, was right next door at third base and only giving encouragement made the transition now seem like the move that only a baseball genius could have made………………………In the early going Andrus, while most of the time dazzling the fans, was also guilty of trying to do even more than his talent level would allow. Carelessness is probably the kindest way to say that he at times was playing only physically and not the least bit mentally. And this is where “the kid” is more blessed than he may ever realize because in the dugout was the patient, yet very accountable manager, Ron Washington………..………………….Washington, a very savvy manager who had earned and learned his way in the big leagues as a coach with the Oakland Athletics had always seemed to be a stickler for fundamentals. In Andrus, I think that “Wash” was almost like one of the old Texas Cowhands that loved the challenge of breaking a frisky young colt. Time after time as the camera moved into the dugout after an inning in the field where Andrus would make what looked like a bonehead play, you could see the teacher and the student. It never appeared to be a scolding but rather a very reaffirming of expectations…………………The dugout lessons became fewer and fewer as the 09’ turned into the 2010 season. At times though Elvis would still try to do more than, as Washington says, what the game would ask of him. But now it was obvious that the young shortstop was self-correcting and also getting advice from the seasoned veterans like Young. By now he had gained the trust of his talented skipper……………As the Rangers earned their first trip to the World Series in 2010, they did so with a very cohesive unit of talented and humble players. And maybe the most humble and talented of the lot was Andrus. That smile of his is incredibly endearing, especially if you are at home watching on the tube. He just seems to truly love his teammates and seems to genuinely play every day simply for “the love of the game”……………………………..As the Ranger success became the talk of major league baseball, and because of the depth of talent, there seemed to be a different hero each night at the park. So as the post-game interviews would crank up, there would almost immediately be a pie to the face, especially if it were a teammate who had never stepped up before. And who was behind the pies: yes sir it was Elvis himself. It was fun to watch………Rarely does he ever get on first base via a single, a walk, or an error that he is not soon visiting with the first sacker from the other team. And if he moves to the next two bases, he enjoys even more conversation time. His personality must be off the charts! And if he is in the field and the opposition comes into second, there he is as a one man welcoming committee. What he does is not just good for the Rangers, it is good for baseball. He brings something extra to every game that every youngster in the country needs to try and copy. And that is true sportsmanship, love of the game, and respect for the opponent…………………..In his first two season in the “bigs” he very quietly became one of the greatest if not the greatest shortstops in the league. He was gaining respect not only for his talent but for his attitude as well. A true testament to the fact is that earlier this year when the Yankees were in town, Elvis was hit by the ball on a throw from the catcher during a successful steal, and was shaken up. He was in enough pain to warrant a trip out to second from the trainer and Washington to check him out. Along with the trainer and manager in the checkup was none other than the Yankee captain Derek Jeter, the aging shortstop for the Bronx Bombers, who was genuinely concerned about the well being of a young man that he obviously admires and probably knows is his heir apparent as the standard bearer for the shortstop position in all of baseball…………………….It is not uncommon when Elvis runs the bases with reckless abandon while getting the most out of his young body, that he comes up holding an injured body part because of his relentless hustle on the base paths. And much of the time his teammates will be on the top step of the dugout watching in awe and also laughing at and with him because they think the little dings are payback for some joke that he has probably played on them at some point during the day or week…………….I for one love it when he seems to chide his infield mate, Adrian Beltre, after the third sacker has made yet another outstanding play. It’s as if he doesn’t intend to let Beltre bask in the glory of his success. Those two are constantly talking on the field and their communication is remarkable. The respect that each shows for the other just seems to be impeccable…………….. I believe that he and Ian Kinsler will go down as one of the greatest double play combinations in the history of the game. And with those two batting in the number one and two spots in the line-up the Rangers always have a tremendous chance to get on the board first. Both can hammer the ball, run the bases, and possess a will to win that is so necessary to win championships………………….It has been fun watching the multi-talented young super star grow up, even though it has been very fast. Two years ago a potential superstar arrived on the scene and now just three years later a proven veteran and still improving superstar takes his place at shortstop for the Texas Rangers on a nightly basis. And sometimes when the hits don’t come and a less than spectacular night in the field happens, he is still fun to watch because he cares as much or more about the success of his teammates than his own. And yes, he will be smiling all the way………………….Keep playing like a kid in a candy store number 1!……………………………RC

About Ronnie Clifton

Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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