Herald/David Morris - Taylor Teagarden of the Texas Rangers baseball team bumps fists with 7-year-old Celestino Gonzalez of Fort Hood after signing a tee ball for the youngster during an autograph session Monday afternoon at Abrams Physical Fitness Center on Fort Hood. Rangers outfielder David Murphy, left, along with bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and radio announcer Eric Nadel, made the visit to Fort Hood.

By Jason Chlapek

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD – Thank You.

Those two words were what Texas Rangers first-year bullpen coach Andy Hawkins told soldiers with whom he interacted Monday at Fort Hood.

"The sacrifice these men and women make every day is great," Hawkins said. "We owe them a great deal of gratitude, and it's very humbling to visit with them. All I can say to these troops is, 'thank you' because they sacrifice so much so that we can live the way we do as Americans."

Hawkins was one of four members of the Rangers who visited troops and their families on post by signing balls and cards for fans. Hawkins, a former pitcher for the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics, was joined by catcher Taylor Teagarden, left fielder David Murphy and radio play-by-play man Eric Nadel.

Hawkins grew up in Waco and resides in Bruceville with his family. He enjoys living close to Fort Hood.

"I still live close enough to feel the big guns go off," Hawkins said. "It's also great not to work too far from home, either."

Until August, Hawkins was the pitching coach for the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma. He has coached in the organization since 2001.

Murphy, a Ranger since July 2007, also enjoyed his experience visiting with troops.

"Being able to hang out with these guys was great," Murphy said. "I'm very fortunate to get to play for a living, but these guys put their lives on the line so I can play baseball. If we lose a game, we get to wake up the next morning, but if they lose, it's a lot more devastating."

Murphy was a member of the Boston Red Sox system from 2003 to July 2007, and earned a 2007 World Series ring for playing with the MLB version of the organization for four days. But now that he's a Ranger, there's one thing Murphy does not do.

"I don't wear the ring," he said. "I want to win one with the Rangers."

Murphy is one of four native Texans on the Rangers' 40-man roster. He also spent all of his amateur days in the state, playing for Klein High School in suburban Houston and Baylor in college.

"It's a dream come true to play for the Rangers," Murphy said. "I grew up a fan of the (Houston) Astros, and it would've been cool to play for them, but the Rangers have a great organization and they treat us well."

Like Murphy, Teagarden is a native Texan, but he also is a hometown hero in that he grew up in the Dallas area. He attended Carrollton Creekview in high school and played college ball at the University of Texas, where he guided the 2005 Longhorns to the College World Series championship.

"It's a honor to get to play for the same team I grew up watching," Teagarden said. "I remember coming to The Ballpark (in Arlington) to see (Ivan) Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rusty Greer play and lead the team to division titles. This is all I can ask for as an athlete, to play for my hometown team."

The Rangers' last American League West Division crown came in 1999, but they were knocked out of the postseason by the Yankees in the wild-card round. Teagarden thinks the Rangers can get back to the postseason if one thing occurs.

"Our pitching has to come through," Teagarden said. "We can hit and score runs with very little problem, but we need our young arms to come through. We have some good young pitchers who can make a difference."

The Rangers start the season April 6 against Cleveland.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.