AUSTIN, Texas — It's not baseball season just yet, but whenever buses arrive in town with the team's skipper and a few players, spring training must be a few weeks away.
"Every time at the turn of the new year, it's time to start getting to roll," said Texas Rangers pitcher Jesse Chavez.
The Rangers' winter caravan made a few stops in Austin Tuesday. Barbeque was the theme for two of those stops.
The first stop was Franklin's. That's where Chavez, Texas third baseman Patrick Wisdom, and Rangers' manager Chris Woodward handed out Rangers swag to customers who were waiting in line for lunch.
Then it was onto Stubb's Barbecue for a media availability and lunch with fans. Texas Longhorns' head baseball coach David Pierce joined Chavez, Wisdom and Woodard on stage for a baseball discussion.
Optimism was the theme for the Rangers, who are beginning a new era.
For a team which finished at the bottom of the American League's West division with 95 losses last season, the Rangers said all of the right things.
"When guys believe in something together, they can accomplish some amazing things," said Woodward.
Chris Woodward should know.
The first-year Texas Rangers skipper experienced the World Series the past two seasons with the LA Dodgers.
Woodward learned quite a bit from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who shared the same philosophy as himself, positivity in the clubhouse with accountability.
"When you have that positive culture, it's refreshing to be a part of that," said Woodward.
Jeff Bannister's successor knows all about that as a player, too. Woodward played the game for a dozen years. He inherits a team minus Hall of Fame hopeful Adrian Beltre, who recently retired. Beltre's replacement, Patrick Wisdom, was acquired in the off-season from St. Louis.
I asked Wisdom if this is a situation he's cherishing because of the opportunity to follow a legend like Beltre.
"Definitely, the legacy he left behind is something to learn from and to aspire as well," he said.
A new third baseman, a new manager and a new stadium to look forward to. This is the final season in their ballpark, which opened in 1994. A retractable roof stadium adjacent to the Rangers' current home will open in 2020.
So, it's one last ride in the current sweatbox. Globe Life Park has a reputation of delivering miserable experiences for players due to the stifling Texas heat during games in July, August and in September.
"What did we have last year? Seven games in a row at 102 (degrees), that's at first pitch," said Chavez. "Take that away at 72 degrees in a dome, we're looking pretty nice."