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Huff looking forward to Texas homecoming

Huff looking forward to Texas homecoming

SAN FRANCISCO -- Aubrey Huff remembers being at old Arlington Stadium on Oct. 3, 1993, the day it hosted its final ballgame.

He remembers sitting in the upper deck of the new Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as a teenager, eating $1 hot dogs and avidly watching his favorite team, the Rangers.

He also remembers the moment he didn't get to experience on June 11, 1990 -- a game for which Huff and his mother had tickets. Unfortunately, she was too tired from working that day to drive her son the 70 or so miles from their Mineral Wells, Texas, home to downtown Arlington.

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As a result, Huff wasn't there to see Nolan Ryan's seventh career no-hitter.

"We missed it," said Huff, who moved from Mineral Wells to Fort Worth in high school and graduated from Brewer High School. "I was so upset."

Although Huff is now a first baseman and an accomplished Major League hitter, he grew up in Texas dreaming of becoming a pitcher after his grandparents got him interested in the game. Like all young Texans who wanted to toe the rubber, Huff's childhood hero was Ryan, the Rangers' team president.

"I haven't talked to Aubrey, but I've followed his career ever since Houston got him in that trade from Tampa Bay [in 2006]," Ryan said on Wednesday. "I find it interesting, now that he's playing first base on a World Series team [after beginning his career at third]."

On Friday, Huff and the Giants traveled to Texas, as the 33-year-old first baseman hopes to help give his current squad a 3-0 World Series advantage over his childhood team in Saturday's Game 3, live at 3:30 p.m. PT/6:30 ET on FOX, with companion coverage on Postseason.TV.

For Huff, this season has been a culmination of sorts, as the 11-year veteran has finally experienced the one thing that had eluded him: team success.

Throughout his career, Huff has been a solid, average big league player, boasting a .283 career batting average with 229 home runs and 838 RBIs. Unfortunately, he's also been -- through no fault of his own -- mostly on losing ballclubs.

Huff spent the majority of his career in the American League East cellar with Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Twice, thanks to late-season trades, first to Houston and to Detroit in 2009, Huff experienced the thrill of a playoff hunt, but was never able to get there.

After a disappointing stint with the Tigers to end last season, Huff was an afterthought on the free-agent market. The Giants inked Huff in January to a one-year, $3 million deal. That figure proved to be a bargain, as Huff not only had a career year while leading the Giants in nearly every offensive category, but also helped keep the clubhouse loose -- the most famous example of his clubhouse shenanigans being his "rally thong." Now the city of San Francisco is two wins away from its first World Series title since the Giants arrived from New York in 1958.

"When it's time to play the game, he's all business. But before the game, he has a knack of keeping everybody loose [not only] with how he's walking around, but also his sense of humor," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Guys have a lot of fun with Aubrey and respect him, how he goes about his business. But also, he's a guy [who] doesn't take himself so seriously, but he takes the game serious, and he makes sure that the other guys do the same."

As hard as it is to believe, Huff wasn't always the joke-cracking, thong-wearing clubhouse presence he is now. In his first full season at the University of Miami, Huff, who initially attended Vernon College in north Texas, struggled emotionally with being out of Texas for the first time since moving there as a young child.

One of the most important people in helping bring Huff out of his shell was Pat Burrell, now and then a teammate. At Miami, Burrell urged Huff to loosen up, and as the Giants have seen this season, he eventually heeded Burrell's advice.

"He's been a guy [who's] not afraid to liven stuff up in the dugout, on the field and in the clubhouse," Game 2 winner Matt Cain said on Wednesday. "I think the biggest thing is, he's able to take some of his fun and relaxed ability out to the field, and bring that into some of the rotation."

On Saturday, Huff's love affair with the game of baseball will come full circle when he takes the field near his childhood home in front of his childhood hero.

"Having grown up [there], I've been a Rangers fan my whole life, obviously. [Ryan] was the face of the franchise," Huff said. "It's pretty cool being able to play in the World Series against a team I grew up rooting for."

Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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