"Pretty cool," said Triple-A Oklahoma City manager Bobby Jones, who has been a Minor League manager for the Rangers almost continuously since 1988. "Pretty sharp. All these years with the Rangers and I've never seen a playoff game here. Pretty good deal."
Not everybody could make it, but the Rangers were flying in and accommodating more than 160 people for the game and hosting them in the Diamond Club in a pregame reception.
"It's just a nice way to honor them," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We always talk about scouting and player development being the backbone of the organization. This is a rare opportunity to recognize them."
The Rangers invited every full-time employee in baseball operations.
"We even snuck in a few part-timers," Daniels said. "We're not here without them. If you were going to single out a group of people who are the principle reason why we're here, it's the players. But after that, it's all these guys out there grinding it out every day."
The makeup of the Rangers' Division Series roster reflects the wide-ranging contributions of the baseball operations department. Of the 25 players, 13 were acquired by trade, six by Draft pick, four by free agency, one by Rule 5 and one by waiver claim. Of the 13 players acquired by trade, five still had significant time in the Rangers' farm system and were brought to Major League-readiness by the player development.
Reliever Neftali Feliz was one. He was acquired -- along with shortstop Elvis Andrus and three others -- from the Braves on July 31, 2007, in the Mark Teixeira trade and spent two years in the Rangers' farm system before finally reaching the Major Leagues on Aug. 3, 2009.
Feliz won Rookie of the Month honors for September and the Rangers were honoring him with a special presentation before Game 3. The award was being presented to him by player personnel director A.J. Preller, player development director Scott Servais, Minor League pitching coach Terry Clark and Latin American scout Rudolfo Rosario. All four represent the different areas of the Rangers baseball operations that allowed Feliz to grow and flourish as a Major League player.
"The organization as a whole has done a good job," manager Ron Washington said. "If you're talented and you can play the game of baseball ... we have unselfish coaches that will get out there and whatever it takes to get you to perform at the Major League level, they are willing to do it. I think that's the turnaround the whole organization has made."
Preller was the one that saw Alexi Ogando playing the outfield in the Athletics system and thought he might make a good pitcher. The Rangers ended up taking him in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft back in 2005.
Then there was Joe Furukawa, the Japanese scout who told the Rangers that Colby Lewis was pitching well in Japan. Josh Boyd, the Rangers' director of pro scouting, also got involved heavily, and the Rangers signed Lewis to a two-year deal last offseason.
"That was an international scouting signing," Daniels said. "It was not like he was on anybody's list of top 50 free agents."
The Rangers have done everything they can to scout and develop players. On Saturday, they honored those who make it happen.