Rangers build strong clubhouse bond with pingpong

Rangers build strong clubhouse bond with pingpong

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers weren't big spenders in free agency this offseason, outside of signing All-Star outfielder Ian Desmond.

But along with Desmond, they added a piece to their clubhouse that has been essential to keeping the team loose during their stay atop the American League West: a pingpong table.

"I was one of the guys that talked about getting the pingpong table, and I was really happy when we got it," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "Who doesn't like playing pingpong? It's good for hand-eye coordination and I love it. I think it's the best centerpiece you can have for the clubhouse. I played a lot when I was a kid. I think that's one of the reasons I wanted a table so bad."

The pingpong table sits in the middle of the Rangers' clubhouse, and nearly every player has grabbed a paddle and challenged a teammate at some point during the season. However, the team's relievers seem to get the most use out of the table.

Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman, Tony Barnette, Keone Kela and Alex Claudio are regulars. For a group that competes together on the field, the competition between them on the pingpong table is fierce.

Emily vs Dyson in pingpong

"There's not really any competition between us other than on this pingpong table," Dyson said.

Dyson said he's "shutting it down" for the year because there wasn't enough good competition left for him in the clubhouse. Diekman, who has played Dyson on a daily basis for most of the season, thinks there's another reason he's called it quits for the year.

"Sam acts like he's pretty good, but he's not," said Diekman, with Dyson standing right behind him.

The playful back-and-forth banter between the Rangers' closer and setup man embodies the camaraderie the table has brought to a clubhouse environment that has been credited for some of Texas' success this season.

"It's been great to have around. It's something everyone can play and it helps keep us loose. I definitely think it brings out a little bit of the competitor in all of us," Barnette said. " When someone gets a good volley going, or there's a good game going on, people start to crowd around the table and watch. It's cool to see that side of it, too."

Pingpong has become so integrated into the Rangers' routine that they put together a portable table so they could play on the road.

Barnette K's Grossman

"I'm glad we purchased that," Diekman said. "The sound is a little annoying, but overall, it's been a great experience."

When it comes to who's the best on the team, most would agree it's Andrus, including Andrus. Shawn Tolleson was also regarded as one of the best players on the team, but he's on the 60-day disabled list with a lower back strain.

"We've closed the gap, though. We've worked on it a lot," Diekman said of the relievers. "We make sure we're loose before we play, and I feel like the competition has gotten heated."

Left-hander Martin Perez said he doesn't play very often because it's tough to keep up with the likes of Andrus and some of the relievers. But he still finds enjoyment in playing every now and then.

Perez sits down Santana

"It's something we play and just try to compete. It's good for us," Perez said. "We play pingpong and compete, and we go outside and compete. It's easier to play pingpong than playing baseball. But you start playing with the good guys and it's not so easy."

Perez's outlook on the pingpong table is exactly what Andrus was hoping for when he helped make sure the Rangers purchased one in the offseason.

"It's the best," Andrus said. "I think that's the best thing about pingpong, it kind of gets your mind of baseball as long as you play. It's just a great game to have some recreation outside of baseball."

Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.