In the heart of Texas, where the Lone Star State boasts its fierce love for baseball, the Astros-Rangers rivalry stands as a defining chapter in the state’s sporting history. For the residents of Texas, this rivalry transcends the boundaries of mere competition – it’s a clash of cultural identities and a testament to the enduring passion that baseball ignites.
Astros relief pitcher Ryan Pressly, a native of Dallas and a lifelong Rangers fan, embodies the complex emotions that this rivalry stirs. As he dons the Houston Astros hat in the news conference room at Minute Maid Park, he reflects on his journey from a Rangers enthusiast to a key player for the Astros. “I never thought I would be in this situation,” Pressly says, his words carrying the weight of his unique position. “I’m just thankful to be here.”
Unlike the extroverted personas seen in sports today, Pressly is a man of few words. He shuns social media, emphasizing his belief in a quieter, action-focused approach. “He likes to keep to himself,” says his wife, Kat Pressly. “He likes to be out on the ranch, be out in nature, go hunting. He doesn’t like a lot of attention or media around him.”
As the Astros seek to reclaim their series lead, Kat takes charge of obtaining tickets for their family when the games shift to Arlington. However, she enforces a strict rule for those seated in the Astros’ family section – no attire with Rangers insignia allowed.
For Ryan, this matchup against his childhood team isn’t perceived as something entirely different. “It’s the same game. It just happens to be in my hometown,” he remarks, maintaining his focus on the game’s essence.
Houston has its fair share of die-hard baseball fans like Jose Ruiz, who has vivid memories of the Astros’ earlier years when they were far from the formidable team they are today. Ruiz recalls the days when he could watch Astros games inside the Astrodome for a mere $5, where empty seats were abundant.
“I thought they were going to suck for the rest of my life, and I was OK with that,” Ruiz says, understanding that part of fandom entails embracing a team through the highs and lows. “There’s baseball fans who live and die, and their team never wins a championship.”
However, the Astros’ transformation from underdogs to champions has been a source of pride for Ruiz. It’s an accomplishment he relishes, especially when taunting his friends from Dallas. “They call me a cheater,” he says with a grin, referring to the allegations that have dogged the Astros since their 2017 championship win.
The Astros’ tainted reputation has cast them as pariahs across the league, resulting in a chorus of boos from opposing fans at away games. For Ruiz, this only strengthens the camaraderie among Astros fans, creating a sense of unity in the face of adversity. “It’s us against the world,” he proudly declares.
Dr. Walter L. Buenger, a history professor at the University of Texas and a Texas native, offers a unique perspective on the Astros-Rangers rivalry. He recognizes the inherent complexity of Texas, shaped by historical narratives that often blur the lines between myth and reality. Houston and Dallas, two cities at the heart of this rivalry, have a long history of competition, stemming back to the 1890s.
The choice of symbolism for these cities reflects their divergent identities. Dallas embraced the cowboy persona, exemplified by the iconic figure of Big Tex, while Houston centered its identity around the oil industry. These distinctions, coupled with their competitive history, have contributed to the deep-seated rivalry between the two cities and their baseball teams.
Dr. Buenger believes that Texas’ identity is a complex and evolving concept, shaped by myths and memories. The rivalry between the Astros and Rangers, rooted in history and regional identity, embodies the rich tapestry of Texan culture.
In the midst of this enduring rivalry, fans like Mark Espinoza hold steadfast to their teams. Espinoza, a lifelong Rangers fan, still remembers the heartbreak of watching the 2011 Rangers fall agonizingly short of a World Series victory. For him, this year’s Rangers team represents a renewed hope, an opportunity to rewrite the narrative of the past.
As fans from both sides converge to celebrate their teams, the Astros-Rangers rivalry continues to define the essence of Texas baseball. The passion, history, and unique narratives interwoven in this sporting spectacle capture the spirit of the Lone Star State.