Alumni recall playing days at luncheon

Alumni recall playing days at luncheon

ARLINGTON -- The second day of the Texas Rangers Alumni Legacy Weekend was highlighted by a roundtable discussion involving Nolan Ryan, Paul Molitor, Charlie Hough and John Wetteland during the Rangers Alumni Legacy Luncheon.

The motivation behind the discussion was to have Molitor describe the difficulties he had facing the likes of Ryan, Hough and Wetteland during his Hall of Fame career. But the roundtable wasn't complete until Jim Sundberg joined it.

Not only did 'Sunny' catch Ryan and Hough during his 12-year career with the Rangers, and not only was he a teammate of Molitor's for one of his 16 Major League seasons, but he was also the key figure in starting the Rangers' Legacy program.

"They've really done a fantastic job of making you feel like a part of what they're doing," former Ranger Dave Hostetler said. "It wasn't like that four years ago and Jim's done a really good job with that."

The Legacy program is in its third year under the leadership of Sundberg, the Rangers executive vice president of communications and public relations.

The Legacy program was born when Sundberg, then the Rangers' executive director to the president and director of business development, approached former Rangers team president, Jeff Cogan, with the idea.

Cogan ran the idea by Rangers owner Tom Hicks, who gave it the thumbs-up.

"There has been an urge for a number of years since we made the move from the old ballpark into the new ballpark," Sundberg said. "There was a sense by the alumni that some of the players previous to the move were forgotten."

Sundberg knew such franchises as the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers organized their own alumni events, but in only three years since its creation, he said the Rangers have one of the best alumni programs in baseball.

"I don't believe anybody does what we do at this level on a yearly basis," Sundberg said.

Since the first year of the Legacy program, it has grown to approximately 70 alumni, who are broken up into three levels -- Hall of Fame, Prestigious Service and Special Recognition. The alumni are asked to make at least five appearances for the program every year.

With the increase in alumni, Sundberg continues to help organize events.

This year's Alumni Legacy Weekend included a Golf Classic on Thursday, the luncheon and Alumni Legacy Game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Friday, and an autograph session and pregame Alumni Legacy Ceremony to take place on Saturday.

"The players like the sense of being appreciated and being valued by the organization," Sundberg said. "I see the guys more than most and, from my perspective, the fun is watching the others who haven't seen each other for a while come back.

"Having a teammate is like entering a relationship. You can not have seen a guy for a while and pick it right back up where you were a couple years ago."

But the Legacy program is far from finished expanding, as far as Sundberg is concerned.

He projects that the program will induct at least four players into the Rangers Hall of Fame in the next five years. However, he wants more recently retired Rangers to get involved with the program, whether or not they're going into the club's Hall of Fame.

"The growth is going to be on getting more of the recently retired guys," Sundberg said. "Most guys, when they let go of the game, they have difficulty emotionally coming back. If we can get them through that emotional stage of being out and get them to come back, that's where the growth will occur."

Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.