Holland reflects fondly on time with Rangers

Holland reflects fondly on time with Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Derek Holland still remembers that magical October night in 2011 when he turned in one of the greatest pitching performances in Rangers history.

There were 51,539 fans at the Ballpark in Arlington for Game 4 of the World Series. The Rangers had lost to the Cardinals, 16-7, the night before in Game 3 to go down 2-1.

Holland responded by holding the Cardinals to two hits over 8 1/3 innings. The Rangers were leading, 4-0, when Holland walked Rafael Furcal with one out in the ninth and manager Ron Washington decided it was time for Neftali Feliz.

Holland has never forgotten what happened next.

"I still have dreams about it," said Holland, who walked off the field to an extended thunderous standing ovation.

"People were chanting my name … I can't even explain what it meant," Holland said. "There were 50,000 people applauding and chanting my name, walking off the field, waving to the fans. Unbelievable feeling. I wish I could still be out there doing that."

He is not. That was five years ago, and now Holland is leaving the Rangers. He was drafted by Texas in the 25th round of the 2006 Draft and has been with the organization his entire career up until now. He ranks in the top five among pitchers ever drafted and developed by the Rangers, an integral part of their two World Series teams.

White Sox ink Holland to deal

But Holland became a free agent after the season when the Rangers declined an option for the 2017 season, and he has signed with the White Sox. Like so many who have passed through here, his time with the Rangers has come to an abrupt and unceremonious end.

Holland leaves the Rangers with a strong and passionate feeling about the fans.

"It's definitely going to be hard leaving Texas," Holland said. "I have been here from the beginning. This is where it started, and I have been here my whole career. But I respect their decision and a change of scenery might be best for me.

"I just want to tell the fans: Thank you for everything. My family loved it here in Texas … so many moments, going to back-to-back World Series."

At one point, it seemed hard to imagine Holland leaving, but that was often the case for many before him. Holland signed a five-year contract extension in the spring of 2012 with two club options. But injuries limited him to a combined 35 starts over the past three seasons, and that prompted the Rangers not to pick up the option.

"Me personally, I'm going to remember the last three years," Holland said. "Very frustrating. But I still think about the World Series. We had a chance to win and didn't do it … it still kills me. But the last three years were frustrating."

Holland did more than pitch in Texas. He embraced the fans and the community with his "60 Feet 6" charity foundation, his many media appearances and unique personality that could be as zany off the field as much as it was serious and determined on the mound.

The fans embraced that, and Holland realized that when the news broke he was signing with the White Sox.

"The way they responded made me feel really good," Holland said. "They showed they still liked me, cared for me and were pulling for me. It shows the fans really stuck by me through the good and the bad. I can't thank them enough."

The memory of Game 4 of the 2011 World Series is not easily forgotten by those who were there.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. 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.