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Rangers begin a new World Series dream

Updated: October 30, 2011, 1:17 PM ET
By Buster Olney

ST. LOUIS -- Behind the sheet of plastic that covered Nelson Cruz's locker, the ball was still wedged into his glove -- the same ball that he caught to end Game 6 of the World Series and to turn the Texas Rangers into champions for the first time. Cruz had held the ball aloft in his bare hand as ran in from right field, intending to join his teammates in their celebration, but instead, they had taken the celebration out to him -- Josh Hamilton crashing into him from the side, to form the bottom of the dog pile, and Michael Young and Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre jumping onto the top.

Cruz clutched the baseball -- the World Series-winning baseball -- the whole time, underneath the pile, then stuffed it into his back pocket and pulled on the T-shirts and caps that had been dispensed to the Texas players while the victory stage was set up. Usually, the closer gets the ball on the final out, but Neftali Feliz is 23 years old and Cruz is 31 years old, so normal protocol is out the door.

Because really, it doesn't matter whether Cruz or Feliz keeps the ball stored safely; it belongs to all of them. It belongs to Ron Washington, their relentlessly optimistic manager, who had found himself praying for the final out. To Jon Daniels, the general manager who learned from his first mistakes to build an organization that is viewed as a developing dynasty by other teams. To Young, who buried his angry feelings toward Daniels in spring training and went about the business of trying to win. To Beltre, who had wanted to sign with the Boston Red Sox and then the Los Angeles Angels, but instead found a group of teammates as devoted to winning as he is. To C.J. Wilson, in what probably was his last year with the Rangers. To Alexi Ogando, who is now celebrated in a country that wouldn't give him a visa just a few years ago.

Washington, his eyes red from the spray of ginger ale and the salt of tears, walked to Cruz's locker and asked to see the baseball, and the right fielder reached behind the plastic and pulled it out. Washington held it for a second, considering how different it seemed from any other baseball he had seen. He shook his head and laughed. "The way you were going back on that," he said to Cruz, "I thought it might get over your head. You about gave me a heart attack."

With that, the two grown men embraced in a bear hug.

In a parallel universe, anyway.

In this universe, there are Texas dreams that can never happen now.

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