SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Spring Training is all about that dreaded word known as routine.
That goes for writers as well as players, coaches and managers, which is why -- two years later -- we still badly miss our colleague Richard Durrett way out here on the edge of Phoenix.
Richard passed away suddenly in the summer of 2014, leaving behind his beautiful wife Kelly, his two children, Owen and Alice, and a third that had yet to be born. Yet his memory still burns bright. And on June 23, the Do It For Durrett Foundation will hold the annual fundraiser at the Ballpark in Arlington.
It is an event -- inspired by Emily Jones and Anthony Andro -- that has surpassed all others, not only for the money raised, but because the laid-back, hair-down atmosphere creates camaraderie among Rangers Nation that can't be duplicated in other staid corporate-sponsored events.
Jeff Wilson, the great Star-Telegram beat writer, and I still miss Richard dearly and talk about him almost every day. To understand why, you have to understand the routine, that day-in-the-life grind that writers endure every day during Spring Training.
It started every morning around 7:30 in the press box, when Richard, filled with an energy that was as unlimited as it was unquenchable, would come bounding in wearing those ridiculous shorts that exposed those long, pasty-white legs.
Richard would immediately plunk two bottles of water at my work station. Every day -- as if it was his most important mission of the day -- knowing my need to stay hydrated here in the desert.
Then it was down to the clubhouse to interview some Major League ballplayers. That is, when they are available. Otherwise, there is much standing around and waiting, which can be the veritable pits.
Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy -- like all journalists -- interviewing players, doing my reporting and working a story. But the physical act of standing around a Major League clubhouse waiting for somebody or something to happen can be the ultimate in tedium.
Not for Richard. He had a skill that I rank at the top of my list of attributes as a baseball writer. He could bounce around a clubhouse as well as anybody, engaging people in conversation in the most casual of manner, whether it be baseball, auto racing or college basketball, with that silly grin and goofy laugh.
Once we were unceremoniously booted out of the clubhouse, it was back to the press box to write our stories. Then came another ritual.
Richard would persistently bombard me with dozens of questions. Over and over. I loved every one, because I am extremely proud to say that Richard was one of my many, many students.
Allow me to get personal for a moment. Over 28 years, I have written thousands of stories, some really good and some that were clunkers. I have come up with my share of "scoops," and -- make no mistake about it -- I have been beaten on a story more times than I want to count.
But the one thing that I am proud of more than anything else is the number of sportswriters around the country that have paid me the ultimate honor of calling me their mentor. There is nothing -- not even close -- I love more than helping young writers and talking in depth about the craft of journalism.
This country has produced many giants of journalism. I am not one of them and never will be, but I will stack up my roster of protégés against anybody ... Bob Woodward, Dan Rather, George Will, anybody. I am more proud of them than any single story or scoop that I ever had.
I can say Richard was one of them. I loved talking to him about the business, and he was passionate about it.
That's the way our morning would go. Richard would be typing faster than any mortal human being, and me using two fingers with just my right hand.
Then they would play a baseball game. After 28 years, I still love watching Major League Baseball. Promise you, 162 has always been a magical number. As long as I feel that, I will do this job. Otherwise, look for me selling lottery tickets at your local convenience store.
When it was all over, we would go back to our domiciles, call our families and take care of personal business.
Then would come the best part of the day. The best friends a person could ever hope for -- Jeff, Anthony, Drew, Stefan, David, Kathleen -- would convene at the local watering hole and let the day drain from our souls for a few hours.
You absolutely have to understand it is the opposite of being in the clubhouse. There, we are free -- free to do what we want, say what we want, be who we really are. No pretense or walking on egg shells. Nobody berating us, the Montagues free from the Capulets.
Free to talk about our jobs, our lives, our families, our hopes and dreams, our trials and tribulations, to make stupid jokes or off-color remarks, watch a meaningless game on television.
Free to be who we are without trying to impress anybody or give a flying flip what anybody else thinks. Free to let our guards down without judgment or scorn. All agendas must be checked at the door.
They are the few hours that make it all worthwhile through long, hot days and cool spring nights here in the desert. It is the best part of the routine.