By Stephen Hawkins
The Associated Press
SURPRISE, Ariz. — When Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington fills out his lineup card on opening day, he will likely write down the names of players from seven different countries, plus Puerto Rico.
Baseball is clearly universal at Texas.
“When we’re out there on the field, we’re all from the same country. We all represent the Texas Rangers,” said Elvis Andrus, the shortstop from Venezuela. “Where you come from, or your nationality, actually don’t matter. When we’re all together, we’re family.”
Yu Darvish, the ace from Japan who finished second in the AL Cy Young voting last season, has been tabbed the opening day starter for the Rangers. His primary catcher is Geovany Soto from Puerto Rico.
The Rangers expected starting infield includes first baseman Prince Fielder (a Californian), second baseman Jurickson Profar from Curacao, Andrus and third baseman Adrian Beltre from the Dominican Republic. The planned outfield includes Shin-Soo Choo from South Korea, Leonys Martin from Cuba and Alex Rios, who was born in Alabama but grew up in Puerto Rico.
“I was just putting baseball players out there,” Washington said. “Geez, I never thought about all the different nationalities.”
There are players from different cultures and different languages — the Rangers even have a translator well-versed in both Japanese and Spanish.
But what never gets lost in translation is baseball and trying to get the Rangers to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
“Whoever can help our team to win ballgames, it doesn’t matter what color. ... I don’t think anybody is looking at nationality here, or colors, or anything,” Beltre said. “Baseball is baseball no matter where you’re from, and how you look. If you’ve got the talent to do your job well, you’re going to be welcomed to open arms everywhere.”
Over the past eight years, the Rangers have developed a strong presence in the Dominican Republic and that branched throughout Latin America. They also started scouting heavily in Japan and throughout the Pacific Rim — that is what led to them bidding big and being able to sign Darvish two years ago.
“Our mentality is we want the best players regardless where they’re from,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Obviously it’s worked out that way, where we’ve got a lot of international players. Some of that is because I think we’re open-minded to it, some of it is because a few years ago we set out to establish a program internationally and feel that we’ve done well there.”
The GM also points out that some of the formation of the current roster was the way players became available and the timing of such. He said the Rangers never set out to have an all-international starting lineup.
“It’s unique, and I think each of these guys bring something different,” he said. “I’m kind of looking forward to watching them come together.”
Rios is a major league veteran acquired by the Rangers in a trade last season after Nelson Cruz was suspended 50 games. Choo, who made his major league debut in 2005, signed a free-agent deal during the winter.
Potential closer Joakim Soria was born in Mexico, and Canadian outfielder Jim Adduci made his major league debut with Texas last year. Both were free-agent additions before last season.
“When you’re putting together a team, we were totally color blind,” assistant general manager Thad Levine said. “It didn’t hit us between the eyes until I think we started penciling in what the 25-man roster could look like. It is remarkable to the extent that we do have diversity on the field.”
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