SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Sam Dyson came to the Rangers last summer like Clint Eastwood out of one of his old spaghetti Westerns, a desperado wandering into a dusty town, mercilessly taking care of the bad guys with a mean look in his eye and restoring law and order.
The Rangers acquired the hard-throwing right-handed reliever from the Marlins on July 31 in the waning minutes before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, looking to reinforce their bullpen. He did just that with a remarkable two months, recording a 1.15 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in 31 games.
Texas was 24-7 when Dyson pitched. For all that happened last season, the Rangers almost assuredly wouldn't have made the postseason without their hired hand helping restore law and order late in the game.
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So who is this guy? Is he really something out of an old Western?
"No," Dyson said. "I might be able to put on a [mean] face now and then, but it's probably hard to get me really angry to do any harm. I'm just a normal guy."
So who is this guy with the 98 mph sinker? That was the question posed earlier this week on a cold Arizona morning. The sun is just barely above the horizon in the east, while a setting full moon hovers over the White Tank Mountains in the west.
Dyson doesn't want to sit while he talks. He would rather take a leisurely stroll through the back fields while explaining who he is.
Dyson is from Tampa, Fla., and he likes to hunt, play golf and fish in the Gulf of Mexico. He played soccer growing up because he could kick the daylights out of the ball. Dyson just didn't like running. He also played basketball, but he averaged two points per game in middle school.
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Minor details aside, as Dyson reminisces with a cup of coffee in hand, two things stand out.
The 27-year-old has always loved baseball, and he wouldn't be in the Major Leagues without the unwavering support of his parents. Sid and Gwenn Dyson mean everything to their only son, and he owes them much.
"I just wanted to play some sport, and baseball was the one I was most gifted at," Dyson said. "My mom and dad kind of pushed me in that direction, allowed me to go to camps and all those showcases. I had all the opportunity in the world to succeed. It was just a matter of getting up in the morning and going to work essentially.
"If I wanted to play, 'Here is the chance, here is the ball and the bat, we'll drive you, however long you want to take this thing.' Anything baseball-related, I had access to. They are probably the biggest influence in my baseball career. They have always wanted me to pursue my dreams. They went the extra mile every day. Whatever it was, they wanted me to have the best opportunity to succeed."
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So it was baseball, despite a traumatic experience at the outset.
"I was hit with a baseball bat when I was 5," Dyson said. "We were doing some coach-pitch stuff and I was walking across home plate with my shirt stuffed with baseballs, and one of the kids hit me in the head with a backswing.
"I had a fifth-of-an-inch dent in my head and I had to go to the hospital, and they put a titanium plate with some screws in there. And they are still there today."
A teacher asked Dyson in middle school what his goal was in his life. He simply said, "Play baseball."
"I never had it in my head to do anything else," Dyson said. "I wanted to play baseball."
Dyson accomplished the dream, although it wasn't easy. He had to overcome a knee injury at Tampa Jesuit High School, but he was still named Sun Belt Player of the Year as a senior. Dyson was drafted by the Nationals in the 19th round in 2006 and instead went to the University of South Carolina. He missed his first season because of injury, but Dyson was a member of the Gamecocks' squad that won the 2010 College World Series.
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Dyson was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2010, but he did not pitch because of a torn labrum and missed '11 because of Tommy John surgery. It was not an ideal start to professional baseball, but he didn't let it deter his dream.
"Not really, no," Dyson said. "For some reason, pain is just pain. You deal with it and move on. Hopefully it heals. I've had plenty of surgeries. That's part of it. It never dawned on me to worry about getting another job, because I knew if I put the work in, I'd be able to come back from anything.
"I have always kind of pushed. I've always been one of the guys who have been the strongest, the person who can run forever, so anything I do, I'll do until I get it right."
Dyson finally got on the mound in 2012 and shot through the Blue Jays' system, earning a September callup. He went 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in five games (one start). The Blue Jays put him on waivers, where the Marlins claimed him.
"The Blue Jays seemed to give up on me for some reason," Dyson said.
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Dyson was solid for 2 1/2 seasons with the Marlins, pitching in 80 games (one start) and going 6-6 with a 3.62 ERA. Rangers scouts loved his arm, and Dyson took off in Texas after the trade.
"I had the same stuff here as I had with the Marlins," Dyson said. "It's a matter of getting your feet wet and understanding what your job is, do what you're best at. I was given the opportunity to pitch late in the games and they just kept feeding me the ball. I knew I always had the stuff to go out and pitch well, it was just a matter of getting the opportunity."
In the clubhouse, Dyson likes to fool around with the rest of them, throwing the football around and donning the Halloween mask for group pranks. But when Dyson is on the mound, he is all business.
"I love the job aspect," Dyson said. "It may or may not be fun some days. You get to control what you control, and that's the ability to throw strikes, change speeds and hope you have a great defense behind you to make some plays.
"Sometimes I kind of zone out, you know? You wake up in the morning, have your first cup of coffee and go to work. That's the way it is on the mound. I just kind of try to embrace it.
"I work my tail off on a daily basis. I like to goof off, have fun and relax just like the rest of them. I just pick my times to do it. I don't smile a lot. It's not because I'm not happy, it's just because I don't smile."
Baseball has always been Dyson's first love, and he is here because of his parents. He is serious about his job. Dyson may not be Clint Eastwood, but he is an integral part of one of the potentially best bullpens in baseball.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.