By John Ring
Jim Sundberg is back where he belongs.
He’s back in baseball. He’s back with the Texas Rangers. And he couldn’t be happier.
Sundberg is in his second season with the Texas Rangers front office as the Executive Director to the President.
He returned to baseball in 2002, as he coordinated several community relations programs and also served as the organizations minor league catching instructor from 2002-2004.
A Galesburg native, Sundberg won six Gold Gloves and was a three-time American League All-Star during his 16-year baseball career. A member of the Rangers Hall of Fame, the former catcher ranks among Ranger leaders in games, at-bats, hits and triples. He also played with Kansas City, when the Royals won the World Series in 1985, Milwaukee and the Cubs.
“This isn’t just a public relations position,” said Sundberg from his office at Ameriquest Field last Wednesday afternoon. “I oversee four departments and am responsible for half of the revenuer raised for the Rangers Foundation. I also do a lot of work in the marketing position. Other guys in positions like this are handshakers but that’s not what I wanted to do.”
Sundberg works hand in hand with Texas Rangers Owner Thomas Hicks, President Jeff Cogen and General manager Jon Daniels. A 28-year old wunderkind, Daniels in the youngest GM in baseball. “He’s a smart guy,” said Sundberg of Daniels. “He’s literally taken the bull by the horns here. He’s very young, that’s true, but he’s very talented.”
“We’ve got a nice blend here. Daniels is young and bright, we’ve got a two-time Manager of the Year in Buck Sholwalter and we’ve got a fantastic ballpark. We took some unique features of the best of the new baseball parks and incorporated them here. It looks great, like it’s brand new.”
When he played for the Rangers, he was easily one of the most popular players in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He did advertisements, charity work and quickly became a fan favorite. His arrival on the major league scene in 1974 coincided with the franchise becoming a winner and a contender in the American League. “The first game I ever caught was when Ferguson Jenkins pitched,” said Sundberg, “and the last game I ever caught with the Rangers was when Nolan Ryan pitched. Those two events are something that I’ll always remember.”
“It’s the same with the World Series and the Royals. The games, the events, how hard is to get to that level are things I’ll never forget as well. It’s nice to look back at things like that. It’s to see things that were mine in the Rangers hall of Fame. I’ve no desire to getting back on the field but you get a sense of accomplishment.”
Sundberg also established the Alumni Legacy Group, which brought ex-Rangers back into the organization to help serve the community. “I think that after players retire, they get the sense that everybody kind of forgets them. This will help bring guys back that haven’t been around in a while.” The Rangers Alumni give baseball clinics and have worked extensively with the Miracle League of DFW which recently opened a new baseball field that allows disabled children to play in a safe environment.
Told that many Ranger fans still think of him as the best catcher in franchise history, Sundberg laughed. “They have a couple of good ones to choose from. Ivan Rodriguez had some great season here at Texas. He played for over 11 seasons and was one of the best in baseball when he played.”
The Ranger Hall of Famer also said he’d like to get back to Galesburg soon. “I didn’t get back last summer because my parents came down here. But I’d like to get back when I have time after this season. I heard that the Galesburg Pioneers will be back and that’s a good thing and I hear the high school baseball team is doing well, too.”
For now, Sundberg is all business and that is the Rangers. “That was quite a game last night, wasn’t it?” he asked about Texas’ 10-4 win over Boston.
Now if they can just get some more pitching.