ARLINGTON -- On the eve of Rangers opening day, a downpour at the ballpark did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm inside the clubhouse.
"I tell guys that get to go through it for the first time don't blink, soak it all in," said Rangers manager Jeff Banister of opening day, "you may not remember who won or lost."
"A couple guys have been telling me you're in for a treat," said Joey Gallo, preparing for his first opening day start. "It's going to be pretty special and it's going to be wild so I'm excited for that."
Gallo making his opening day debut because regular Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre's out with a strained right calf. The veteran says because he had an earlier strain of the left calf, his lower body needs more conditioning before he'll be ready for the grind.
Beltre didn't hesitate when asked what he'll miss about not being on the opening day line-up card.
"Everything about it. Everything," he said. "The excitement of the first game, the whole team being together for the first time. You're starting the first game of hopefully more than 162 games."
Beltre missing opening day for the first time in 16 years one of many issues that will arise over the long haul of the upcoming season. But Jeff Banister in confident in his 2-time defending A-L West champs.
"They know how to win," said Banister. "They know how to play from behind. They know how to play from in front. They know how to wash off very well after some not so good games, and they know how to stay in the fight."
162 games - long and grueling for the players, at times tedious for the fanbase, but it is fair. At the end of the sports world's most thorough regular season examination, the team that comes out on top - like the Rangers have the last two seasons in the AL West - certainly, earns it.
"Just knowing that it is such a long battle that every day presents different challenges, every series presents different challenges. There going to be a number of things we have to overcome," said Banister.
The best teams have the right answers more often than not for all the questions the game will ask over the next six months.
Questions like can the Rangers come close to matching their 36-and-11 record in 1 run games last season?
Will their two aces, Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels be as dominant as the organization expects?
Familiar names like Mitch Moreland, Ian Desmond, Colby Lewis, and Derek Holland gone, will the new-look Rangers come close to the 95 wins they notched last season?
Rangers second baseman Rougie Odor recently inked a big new contract. Can he and fellow middle infield Elvis Andrus lead the way for a defense in need of improvement?
We're on the verge of beginning to get answers to those very questions when all the talk ends and results are all that matter.
"It's being zero and zero," said Banister, "the beginning of a marathon that at the end of the year is heart fought."
And in half-a-year, when they tally up the 162, the Rangers hope all the storm clouds, like the ones that hung around the ballpark on this day, are nowhere in sight.
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