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Rangers' all-time greats honored at luncheon

ARLINGTON -- Before Ruben Sierra was signed by the Rangers in 1982 at age 17, he had been exclusively a right-handed hitter.

But rookie league hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo changed that, and the switch-hitting Sierra went on to be named to three All-Star teams during the 10 years that he spent with the Rangers and, like Jaramillo, was eventually inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.

"[Jaramillo] saw me swinging from the left side and he saw that I had potential," Sierra recalled during a roundtable discussion at the Rangers' 40th Anniversary Luncheon on Friday afternoon. "I had never hit left-handed in my life. I started hitting for about a week, he liked what he saw, and then he told me to go ahead and hit lefty. The first pitch, I hit a triple."

Sierra was one of 22 current and former Rangers who were named to the Rangers' 40th Anniversary All-Time Team that was honored at the Dr Pepper 40th Anniversary Weekend Luncheon at the Arlington Convention Center on Friday. He and several other All-Time Rangers -- who were selected by fans who cast nearly 65,000 online ballots in May -- were in attendance, including 10-time All-Star catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez and all-time strikeouts king Nolan Ryan.

"Every time I come to Texas, it's like coming home," said Rodriguez, who retired before this season started. "I still miss the game. I still watch the games every day. I still feel like I can play a little bit more. Sometimes I'm sitting at home watching games [and] I get goose bumps and want to go back and play."

The Rangers' 40th Anniversary All-Time Team will be introduced on the field at the Ballpark in Arlington before Saturday's game against the Tigers, which will start at 7:30 p.m. CT to accommodate the pregame ceremonies. Longtime Rangers radio broadcaster Eric Nadel will also be inducted to the Rangers Hall of Fame during an on-field pregame ceremony that night.

"It's interesting to see these guys, because I was fortunate to either play with them or against them and see their careers and know what they've accomplished in the game and our organization, so it's neat when you have a celebration of this nature," said Ryan, who currently serves as the Rangers' team president and CEO. "I think a lot of the alumni that we have, a lot of them make their homes here, so they retire here. I think they probably have a bond with the organization ... and I think a lot of them come back because they view that as a very special time in their life."

The luncheon, which was sold out, began at 11:30 a.m. CT and included introductions of the children who have participated in the Rangers' Miracle League club and the former Rangers on the All-Time Team in attendance. Ryan received a standing ovation during these introductions before Michele Wetteland, the wife of All-Time Team member John Wetteland, delivered an invocation.

"This is a great honor to be a part of the 40th Anniversary Team, especially by being voted in by the fans," said Rafael Palmeiro, who made the squad as a first baseman and designated hitter. "I live in the community, so I'm all over the place. I'm not doing anything with the Rangers, per se, but I still live here and I still do a lot of stuff in the community, with baseball and with kids."

A conversation between Nadel and Rangers television broadcaster Steve Busby was sandwiched in between roundtable discussions moderated by Busby's partner, Tom Grieve, and former Rangers second baseman Mark McLemore, during which stories like Sierra's were told.

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