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By Jack Douglas Jr. |Senior Investigative Producer
He once was a super star athlete, but now he’s on the sidelines, away from the limelight, still happy when someone asks for his autograph.
For many, Rusty Greer was the face of Texas Rangers baseball – always diving, always sliding…
And never straying from the team and the fans, even if it would have meant more money at another ball club.
“Yeah, I could have moved around, probably made a little bit more money along the way,” he said during an interview at his North Texas home.
“But my opinion at the time, and still is, if you like a place, if you like the people who surround you, a difference in a few dollars doesn’t matter,” he said.
The popular outfielder was with the Rangers for 10 years, beginning in 1994, but his last two years were consumed by surgeries in efforts to mend the injuries that come when you throw your body at baseball.
Greer retired in early 2005.
“You are a celebrity. You’re a baseball player …For your whole life, the baseball side of it has defined your life,” Greer recalled, adding, “Once that stops …It’s almost like you’re lost a little bit.”
Greer stayed true to North Texas, where he lives with his wife Laurie and their three children, Taylor, Mason and Clayton.
He has turned his baseball in for a profession in sales, but stays in the game by working with kids – including his own – to teach them how to swing a bat.
Greer said he does not miss the glitter that comes with being a big-leaguer, “but it sure is nice when somebody wants your autograph.”
“I think what I miss most, out of all of it, is the roar of the crowd,” he said.
That roar was never louder than on July 28, 1994, only two months in the big leagues, when he made a spectacular diving catch that saved a perfect game for Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers.
It came near the end of the game, as nerves tightened for the outfielders who did not want to make a mistake – drop a ball – that could have blown the perfect performance.
“People say you want to have the ball hit to you. Well, there were eight big-leaguers on that field that didn’t want that ball anywhere near them…
“I was one of them,” Greer said.
But a hard-hit ball sailed his way, and he dove for it, his outstretched body parallel to the ground as his glove reached for its prey.
“As soon as I left my feet, I said, ‘I got it.’”
Another highlight for Greer was getting to know George W. Bush, part owner of the Rangers and, at the time, governor of Texas who would go on to the White House.
He remembers one game in particular, when, as he walked to the dugout, he saw Bush, who was flanked by Secret Service agents.
“I threw my hand up and said, ‘Hey, how’re you doing guv’ …he just threw his hand back up and laughed,” Greer recalled.
“So I got to the dugout and thought, ‘You know, I just called the governor of Texas and the future president guv.’ I think he got a kick out of it,” he said.
Laurie Greer said she was sad when her husband retired, but happy that she no longer has to share her husband with the game of baseball.
“I wouldn’t give up him being able to be a part of our children growing up,” she said.
However, there is something she’s noticed now that her big-league husband is around the house more often.
“In his older age, he’s become very sentimental…and he cries a lot …at TV shows, movies …on Saturday game day,” Laurie Greer said, smiling at the thought.