Has anyone in baseball received more attention this spring training despite barley pitching nine innings than Yu Darvish? Not really.
That is just how his life is and I'm sure Darvish has prepared himself for it. He has all the tools to be a great pitcher in this league; it's just up to him to put aside the distractions and do what he does best.
I think his talent is only one reason why he will be a big star in Texas. Here are some other reasons why Darvish will put his name beside the other big names in the Texas sports landscape.
Every game Yu Darvish starts will be an event, no question about it. The Ballpark in Arlington seats almost 50,000 people. I think most of his starts will be around that capacity and have a playoff feel to them.
The Rangers have seen their attendance rise the last couple of years, even finishing in the top 10 last season despite playing in the brutal summer heat.
What makes Darvish special is that I don’t expect the attention to really bother him all that much. The spotlight is nothing really new for him because he was the biggest sports star in Japan.
It’s good for baseball and particularly good for the Rangers to have a guy like Darvish around. One of the big storylines all year will be watching him adjust and rise to the new challenges the MLB presents.
Everything is bigger in Texas, right? There will be more than Rangers fans watching every pitch Darvish throws. The local, national and international media are already compiling large archives of Darvish stories.
This wouldn’t be the first time that the Dallas area has adopted a player from another country as one of their own. Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks has become one of the city’s most beloved sports icons. He has balanced his celebrity status in America and Germany very well, helping basketball become much more popular in Dallas.
I can definitely see Darvish having this kind of effect for Texas. He has a ways to go before he reaches Dirk’s status, but watching how Dirk handled his celebrity fame could benefit Darvish.
Darvish was a strikeout machine in Japan and is already averaging a strikeout per inning in his spring starts thus far. I think this is what will make him very popular in Texas.
A strikeout for a pitcher is like a home run for a hitter. Watching Darvish blow hitters away is much more entertaining than pop ups or ground outs, just like a home run is way more exciting than a bloop single.
Let’s face it, the Rangers have not really had a pitcher with this type of exciting strikeout stuff since Nolan Ryan. That’s really high praise and I’m not going anywhere near comparing the two yet. I just think the strikeout factor in Darvish’s arsenal will make him a bigger star.
Texas is a football state and always will be. However, it has been awesome to watch how the Dallas/Fort Worth area has reacted to the last couple of playoff runs by the Rangers. They are becoming one of the hottest tickets in town and I think Darvish can take them to even bigger heights.
As the Rangers have become more popular, fans have gravitated toward certain players. Texas has plenty of great hitters (Young, Hamilton, Cruz) but they don’t really have a face for the rotation. Should Darvish meet expectations and fulfill his potential, he gives the team a long-term star at the top of their staff.
Darvish is only 25 years old. There is something about watching a young player succeed that is very satisfying for a sports fans. I think this is due to the excitement of the player’s future and the appreciation for how difficult it is to excel at a young age.
This is another reason why I think the Rangers have one of the best organizations in baseball right now. They didn't give millions of dollars to a guy in his 30s hoping he can defy father time and take them to championships. Texas found a young gunslinger who can fit in well with what they are trying to accomplish.
It's a risk, but there is always a risk when a team gives a free agent a big contract.
I think Darvish's youth will serve him well in Texas, a place that loves its stars. Hopefully while he is focusing on baseball he can still enjoy all the adulation that Ranger fans will give him.