The inside story of Rangers’ ‘claw’ and ‘antlers’

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/baseball/rangers/stories/1023…

By WILLIAM WILKERSON / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

 

There’s no doubt the wiggle room at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is dwindling as Texas nears its first postseason appearance in more than a decade.

But the “Claw”strophobia that has ensued in the stands doesn’t have so much to do with the crowd size as it does a unique blend of hand signals that have strengthened team unity and created a special bond between the Rangers and their fans.

Move over, Rally Monkey, the Claw and Antlers craze is the new gimmick of the American League West … and quite possibly all of major league baseball.

“It’s amazing,” Rangers center fielder Julio Borbon said. “It’s so big for us as far as our team chemistry just being able to enjoy being around each other and supporting each other.”

What started out as an in-house gesture among players has quickly morphed into the latest and quirkiest calling card in the league, a spot some would say has been held down by Anaheim’s jumping monkey since its appearance in the 2002 World Series .

Should a Texas player do something positive offensively he’ll acknowledge his feat with a “claw,” fingers slightly curled with his arm extended in a rising swoop. The “antlers” — hold both hands open above the ears to imitate a deer — come about after something speed-related.

“Because when a deer gets going that’s what you look like when you run all the way from first to third and then beat out a throw at the plate,” Borbon said.

The origin of the Claw can be traced to Rangers utility man Esteban German, who started the hand signal in Triple A Oklahoma City last season.

“One day we were deciding to be funny,” he said. “Most of it was with the Latin guys.

“We started doing it in spring training if a guy would get a hit. It’s very cool. It’s like a long-distance high-five.”

Opinions vary as to who started the “antlers,” but a popular choice is Nelson Cruz, who can look just above his locker for motivation if he ever needs it. Josh Hamilton had a 10-point buck that he shot with a bow-and-arrow hung between their lockers a few months back.

“I don’t know anything about the evolution of it, but all of a sudden the guys had shirts made up and that’s their sign of having a good time,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington, who got in on the act during a Twins Legends game at Target Field on Sept. 5. “It means that you’ve just done something that you get a chance to [show support]. Those guys have a good time together and trust one another. It’s nice that they have something to symbolize their unity.”

Those shirts (blue with a claw on the front and the antlers on the back) have exploded throughout Rangers Nation. They were strictly a clubhouse commodity before Richard “Hoggy” Price — who is in his 34th season with the Rangers but in his first as the team’s equipment and home clubhouse manager — asked Cruz and Vladimir Guerrero if he could make a shirt “to give us a little push going forward.”

They obliged, and few, if any, could have imagined what’s transpired. The Ballpark has the “Deer Cam” catching fans giving the sign before the eighth inning, the “Claw Cam” before the bottom of the eighth, plus foam claws and deer montages on the video screens. Fans attach antlers to brooms in case of a sweep.

“There is nothing like when something like this happens naturally,” Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg said. “The fact that this came from the players, the fans adopted it, and it wasn’t a bunch of marketing people sitting around coming up with the idea. It happened on its own and it’s the best thing going.”

The dot race acknowledged the craze again in Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees when the red dot sported a pair of horns. There are Facebook pages for the groups “The Claw and Antler Nation,” and the “Claw and Antlers Republic,” which has the slogan “Because this is WAY cooler than the Rally Monkey!” A Google search of the subject brings up 5,400 results and a song, Do The Claw, can be bought on iTunes.

“Sometimes there are seasons where something like this can happen,” said Greenberg, who has been known to flash both signs. “But the way this has developed has been so gradually, and it has been building momentum. It’s a true grassroots idea. It’s as pure as can be.”

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