ARLINGTON — Ron Washington tipped his cap to the crowd while the video-board camera panned toward him at the third-base line. And as he received a standing ovation, the cheers for the former Rangers manager were pretty much the Texas-sized equivalent of Ronald Acuña Jr.’s return to Truist Park the night before.
It’s not like Washington, who celebrated his 70th birthday in the Braves’ 6-3 win on Friday night, hasn’t returned to Texas since resigning as the winningest manager in Rangers history in 2014. He’s been back plenty of times, but this one was different: He had some bling to show off.
Everywhere Washington went, a crowd — mostly Rangers media and personnel — followed. Many lined up along the grass while he ran through one-on-one drills with the infielders. When he was finished, Washington grabbed his 2021 World Series ring from the kangaroo pocket of his hoodie and smiled while the crowd huddled around him wide-eyed.
While there aren’t any players from the 2010 and ‘11 Rangers teams on the current roster — when Washington led Texas to back-to-back World Series appearances — a handful of staffers remain. A couple of them posed for pictures with Washington, his ring and their decade-old American League Championship Series rings.
Washington said he decided to bring the ring with him on the trip to Texas because he still has a lot of friends within the organization and wanted to give them a look.
“My heart is broken that I haven’t been able to get one here in Texas, and we had two opportunities at it,” Washington said. “My heart is broken for that. But you know, when things don’t work out the way you want them to work out, you got to pick up the pieces and you got to move on.”
Moving on meant a stint in Oakland before being hired as the Braves’ third base coach in 2017. Washington had plenty of company at his station on Friday. At one point, he was jumping up and down with his arms swinging in the air as he waved down Travis Demeritte to turn home for an inside-the-park home run in the third inning.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said as it was happening, that he was trying to recall if he ever experienced an inside-the-park home run when he was the club’s third base coach, then observed how much energy it took out of Washington.
“I told him, ‘There’s no way in hell you’ll catch me out there at 70 years old,” Snitker said.
Demeritte’s home run was Atlanta’s second of the game and the first inside-the-park home run in the three-year history of Globe Life Field. After he dove home to beat the throw, Demeritte laid in the dirt with his arms outstretched for a few seconds before getting up. He hadn’t run that much in four years, he said.
“I was trying to catch my breath. I was exhausted,” Demeritte said of the Braves’ first inside-the-park homer since 2016 (Dansby Swanson vs. Washington). “It took me a little minute, probably like another two innings to really recuperate and catch my breath.”
Austin Riley’s Statcast-projected 424-foot shot to the Rangers’ bullpen in the first inning was the first home run of the game. William Contreras highlighted the offensive output with a pair of solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings – his first homers of the season and his first career multihomer game.
Atlanta hitters might have overshadowed Washington’s big return for Rangers fans, but in the end, the final result was what mattered most.
“I’m definitely happy to be back,” Washington said. “But I’m back here to win.”