When the Texas Rangers’
new bench coach was introduced at the home opener last April, a torrent of boos rained down. The man in question just grinned – and then laughed. Heck, this was just like old times.
Steve Buechele – “Boo” – was back.
“That was pretty special for me,” said Buechele, “Not only to have played for the Rangers, but to work my way back to be part of the big league staff. It was a super special deal.”
Buechele’s Rangers experience began in June 1982 when he was chosen in the fifth round of the draft out of Stanford University. He actually had been drafted ninth in the first round by the Chicago White Sox three years earlier after high school, but he had committed to college before a deal could be reached.
He never regretted his choice: “I think being able to go to Stanford, making friends and relationships and playing baseball there … I have absolutely no regrets at all.”
Although Texas had never made the playoffs
at the time Buechele joined the organization, he thinks he landed in a great spot. The farm system was so bad then, he said, that he was assigned to Class AA Tulsa and never had to spend time in the low minor leagues. He played six seasons with Tulsa and Class AAA Oklahoma City before being called up to the Rangers on July 19, 1985.
There was some concern as to how the Texas fans would welcome this rookie taking the place of the much-beloved Buddy Bell, who had been traded to Cincinnati. It was, said longtime Star-Telegram writer Jim Reeves, “an unenviable task. But Boo stepped in without a hitch and became as arguably as popular with the fans as Buddy had been.”
The comparison hadn’t worried Buechele.
“The only thing that crossed my mine was just to go out and be me. I couldn’t be Buddy Bell or anyone else. Hopefully, the way I went out and got my uniform dirty and dived around the infield would be good enough, and I think it turned out OK.” -Buechele
The fans fell in love with Buechele. “He was confident without ever being cocky,” said Reeves. “He played the game the way it was meant to be played and with a passion that was easy to see.”
At the same time, Buechele fell in love with Arlington. “It was a great place to play,” he said, “a city right in the middle of Dallas and Fort Worth. I made Texas my permanent home in 1987, married Nancy in 1989 and it’s been home ever since.”
It remained home despite a stretch when he was with other teams. He was traded to Pittsburgh in August 1991 and played there and with the Chicago Cubs until released in July 1995. Buechele was quickly picked up by the Rangers, but played only nine games before being released.
He thought seriously about trying to play again the next year, but while the heart said yes, the feet said no. “My Achilles heels, my feet,” he said. “I couldn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t play every day, and I didn’t want to be part of a team where I was just a utility guy.”
He left the game,
but took with him some great memories. “I had a chance growing up in Southern California to watch Nolan Ryan play,” he said. “And, lo and behold, who would ever have thought that I’d be playing behind him in two of his no-hitters, the 5,000th strikeout, the 300th win? That’s what stands out.”
Plus, there are the friendships formed over the years – guys like Pudge Rodriguez, Reuben Sierra, Pete O’Brien, Larry Parrish, Charlie Hough. “Some of those old names,” he said. “That’s what I remember most.”
Being out of baseball gave Buechele a chance to spend more time with his ever-growing family. The oldest child, Garrett, had arrived in 1991 and was followed by another son, Tanner, daughters Jordan and Amber, and finally Shane – the Baby Boo – in 1998. All were standout athletes at Lamar High School, the boys in multiple sports and the girls in volleyball. Garrett played baseball at Oklahoma and for two years in the San Francisco farm system, and Tanner played for Fullerton College.
Steve was hardly idle.
He made occasional appearances for the Rangers’ public relations department, and he and Nancy were heavily involved in community work throughout Arlington. “I think the biggest project we took on was when we were chairs of the capital fund committee for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Arlington,” he said. “The Boys and Girls Clubs still holds a dear spot in both our hearts.”
Former Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway has been a close observer – and fan – of the Buechele family over the years. He talks about them making a contribution to the world. “And by the world I will hone in on the north side of Arlington,” he said. “The Boos care. They could have moved to Southlake long ago.
They could have sent their kids to the high-dollar private schools, but each and every one of the young Boos, and I’ve watched them all grow up, stayed right there on the north side.”
There was never a thought of moving, Buechele said. “We just loved Arlington. We loved the people, the city and the area. Arlington was home. That’s where we were going to be.”
The Buechele nest emptied in January when Steve and Nancy drove Shane, a December Lamar graduate, to Austin to enroll at Texas. He had committed to play quarterback for the Longhorns, and his OU siblings seemed to take the defection in stride. Sister Jordan tweeted, “CAN’T BELIEVE I AM SAYING THIS … HOOK EM’ HORNS!”
Steve said things would be different after his youngest child left, but Nancy looked on the practical side. “That last morning when she woke Shane up to get him ready, she said, ‘That’s the last time I’m going to have to wake up anybody and take them to school,'” he said.
Steve eased back into baseball
in 2008, doing pre- and post-game duty for the Rangers’ broadcasting team, but went all-in in 2009 after a conversation with Nolan Ryan, then the team president.
“He asked if I’d ever considered managing. I said no, but the truth was that I’d thought about getting back in the game as a coach or roving instructor. Then he said that he’d like me to manage. I ran it through the family, everyone was all for it, and I absolutely had a blast doing it.” -Buechele
He began in Bakersfield, spent four years with Frisco and then one season with Class AAA Round Rock before moving up to be a Rangers coach. He had interviewed for the Texas manager’s job, but said Jeff Banister was the right choice.
“He’s an everyday blue-collar guy. I think we have the same baseball convictions. He’s true to himself, and I think a lot of people think the same of me.”
Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels is one of those people. He went out of his way to say how impressed he was with Buechele’s interview. So, will we be seeing Boo in a big league manager’s role? The door is open.
“It’s just like being a player,” he said. “You want to reach the big leagues again.”
Meanwhile the two Buecheles remaining in Arlington will continue to be a big part of the community. “I have long admired Mrs. and Mr. Boo (I put momma Boo first, you notice), no matter if it’s at the ballpark or at Al’s Hamburgers, where all the Boo family would gather back in the day,” Galloway said, “First graders to high schoolers … just damn good people.”