Starstruck: adj. Fascinated by or exhibiting a fascination with famous people or fame itself
There’s just something about baseball. It’s America’s pastime and like Brad Pitt says in Moneyball “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” It’s a game I was introduced to when I was five years old and I grew up idolizing players like Pudge Rodriguez, Ivan Gonzalez, and Will Clark. I went to my first MLB game when I was four and practiced my batting stance lining up in front of the TV during baseball games. But one player stood out to my young Little League heart: Rusty Greer.
The Texas Rangers weren’t the best team to watch in the late 90s and early 2000s but I watched to see the Oklahoma redhead make miraculous catches against the outfield walls and save the day time and time again. And former Rangers’ broadcaster Josh Lewin said it right in his book Ballgame when he said Rusty was number one in our hearts. I adopted Rusty’s number 29 as my official Little League uniform number. I joined the Dr Pepper Junior Rangers club and was invited to the ballpark to hear him speak. I went and was pretty starstruck. He signed a ball for me and my mom had to ask him for me because I couldn’t get a word out. (And it’s pretty rare for someone to render me speechless.) He was my baseball idol and I was disappointed when he retired after the 2002 season. I had only ever thought of him as a talented player.
Fast forward ten years. I landed my first minor league internship as a media relations intern for the Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas Rangers Double-A team. I’m still a huge baseball fan and it was my first time working with professional athletes on a regular basis. But the starstruck thing was never really a factor for me because going into the season, I honestly had no idea who any of these guys were. It was easy to interview them, get what I needed for various stories and programs, and go on about my normal routine….at least until a day in late July.
As journalists we’re taught not to get starstruck especially when working with high profile people. It’s unprofessional and can cause awkwardness. So you can imagine my nervousness whenever Mitch Moreland was sent down to rehab with the RoughRiders on July 28, 2012. I had watched him play for the Rangers the previous two seasons including the World Series runs. I had cheered for him as a fan so it was crazy to think I was going to get to interview him. Before that night’s game, we sat down and I talked to him about returning to Dr Pepper Ballpark and rehabbing from a hamstring injury. (Article here) During the interview, he was yawning a lot so after we were done I asked him if he was alright. He said he only got 30 minutes of sleep because he and his wife brought home their newborn son the day before. Then he asked if I wanted to see pictures to which I said yes. As he got his phone from the clubhouse and ran back to the hallway to show me the pictures, it hit me that players are people like us. They just happen to have an amazing job which is in the public eye. They are everyday guys who have incredible stories to tell. Ever since then, the starstruck quality of baseball players has gone away…..well, except for one.
That December, I went to the Texas Rangers Fanfest event with some friends and guess who was signing autographs? Rusty Greer. I was one of the first people in line and asked my friends if they would all hang on to a different card that I had brought so he could sign them. I got up to the table to speak to him and turned into a five-year-old all over again. I had butterflies in my stomach but was actually able to have a small conversation with him. I exited the line with a huge, goofy grin on my face. And a few hours later, I was walking from one exhibition hall to another when he walked across the hall in front of me towards the door. He turned and nodded in my direction as I told him to have a good night. It was like the whole starstruck thing came full-circle. But then again, I think everyone has that one person who will always be a star in their eyes. I mean, how can you not be romantic about baseball?