Rangers hoop it up in spring camp

Banister's free-throw tourney hits nothing but net with players

Rangers hoop it up in spring camp

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' version of March Madness began on Thursday morning, courtesy of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

No, this was not the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament pool -- that comes later in the spring. This was the Great Free Throw Shooting Contest, an idea manager Jeff Banister picked up from his visit to the Seahawks' training center last summer.

Rangers Spring Training info

"You walk around their camp, they have basketball goals all over the place," Banister said. "I can't take credit for this. Team building, putting some guys in uncomfortable situations. They may not have played basketball before. All of your teammates are standing around you. There's something about that.

"So many different lessons in that one little event, plus it does break up the days of Spring Training. It's all in fun. You see how they rally around each other, and they also give each other some grief on air balls and hard-hit balls against the backboard."

The Rangers have 59 players in camp, and all are entered. It is head-to-head competition and double-elimination. Each player gets five foul shots, and there is a sudden-death shootout in case of a tie. There is a winners bracket and a losers bracket, and this could take all spring.

The court? A 10-foot mobile basket outside the back door of the renovated clubhouse, sitting on the plaza with a regulation free-throw lane marked out in tape.

"We measured it just like [the movie] Hoosiers," Banister said.

There were four matches in the morning, and pitcher Myles Jaye was the first winner, taking down Sam Dyson.

"We had some interesting forms," Banister said. "Dyson went with the underhand shot. He made the first one and then didn't come close."

Josh Hamilton then took down Lewis Brinson even though he just got off crutches and is still dealing with a sore left knee. Patrick Kivlehan advanced by beating Mitch Moreland.

"Brinson has a pretty good stroke but sometimes that funnel gets smaller," Banister said. "Moreland is a better rebounder than shooter."

Jeremy Guthrie put away Rougned Odor by hitting his first four shots in flip-flops.

"He was playing around on the fifth shot," Banister said.

Banister has already declared Guthrie the favorite in the tournament.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.