Rangers Pitcher Derek Holland lives lifelong dream on the mound


Photo by MCT

Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland (45) pitches against the Detroit Tigers during Game 6 of the American League Championship Series in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, October 15, 2011. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

NOTE: This story resulted from an interview Editor Allie Peregory had with Derek Holland this summer while attending a Dallas Morning News workshop.

Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland (45) pitches against the Detroit Tigers during Game 6 of the American League Championship Series in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, October 15, 2011. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)
The scent of peanuts and hot dogs float up the stands, red and blue shirts surround him as Texas Ranger’s fans put their hands up high and do The Claw. This is when starting pitcher Derek Holland has tunnel vision. Everything around him is tuned out except for the mitt in front of him as he lifts up his leg to send another pitch to the plate.

“Baseball is so awesome; there are no other words to describe it,” Holland said. “It’s America’s pastime. It’s a great game to watch and just to be a part of.”

Holland picked up a baseball bat at age three and has been playing since then. Holland was drafted by the Rangers in 2009 and pitched in the World Series with the team in 2010. Holland said that pitching in the World Series was one of the greatest experiences of his life.

“I couldn’t even believe it. I was in shock. I didn’t even know what to do, emotions got me and it was unbelievable,” Holland said. “It’s just something you work all your life to do.”

Holland knew from an early age that baseball was something he wanted to do professionally. Holland said that after an army recruiting officer told him that he would never make it to the big leagues he became even more motivated to play major league baseball, using a poster that he drafted in his own handwriting.
“I made a poster that stated ‘The Army Says You Can’t’ and put it on my wall,” Holland said. “It was probably one of the greatest things I used to motivate me and get me going to where I am now.”

Ranger fans will find that Holland is not shy to give out an autograph or take a picture. He said that he loves his fans and wants to give back to them any way that he can.

“I give back to my fans in any way possible- autographs, charities, anything I could possibly do to give back to the fans,” Holland said. “Anything I can get my hands on; I’ll do it.”

Holland doesn’t stop with just autographs. He is currently working to promote awareness of the dangers of texting and driving after losing a friend in a car accident. Holland also built a park and did a camp for children with Down syndrome in Ohio.

“They’re so funny and they love to be around people. It’s so neat to be around those kinds of people and to give back to them,” Holland said. “That’s one thing I wish everyone could experience, just to see how much love they have for everything and just to see that smile on their face.”

With a cross around his neck, Holland said that he is very religious. Holland said that fellow teammate Josh Hamilton has been a big inspiration in his faith and has helped him a lot.

“You have to be close to God. He’s the one that has brought me here and given me the talent,” Holland said. “I give all my success back to God because that’s where it came from.”

At a game there was a fan’s sign in the left field that read “Dutch Oven: Bring the Heat”. The name stuck. The nickname spread from the fans, to Ben and Skin and even ESPN, now the nickname is recognized throughout the league.

“It’s a pretty funny nickname,” Holland said. ‘I thought it was perfect for me because I like to have fun and be goofy, and it’s just a goofy nickname.”

The Dutch Oven said that the Texas Rangers set themselves apart from other teams in the league by their character and the team’s work ethic.

“We have swagger. We carry ourselves very well, and we have unbelievable chemistry,” Holland said. “I don’t think there’s a team in the league that out hustles us. We really try to out perform you no matter what.”

Holland’s grandmother had never seen him pitch except on the television. She was able to attend a game in Cleveland and Holland said that he pitched one of the greatest games of his life.

“That was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had,” Holland said. “I would like to relive pitching in front of my Grandma again, just to see her reaction throughout the game.”

Holland wants to make his way to the Hall of Fame and wants people to recognize his character not only as a great baseball player, but also as a well rounded person.

“I want to make a name for myself as a person who’s great on and off the field,” Holland said. “I want people to recognize I care about my fans, and that I care about my teammates.”

Holland said that Ranger fans are amazing and the players feed off of the energy from the crowd. He admits that the team doesn’t like when the stadium does The Wave, but they appreciate the support.

“The louder it gets the more amped up we become. You get that great feeling of the fans behind you. It feels real good,” Holland said. “We love what the fans are doing; we don’t want to change anything. Just stop The Wave.”

Holland said that a lot of people get caught up in the fame and forget to stay humble, but he believes that staying humble is the key.

“Stay humble, that’s the main thing,” Holland said. “You just need to relax, stay humble, remember where you came from and always give back to the people that have been there for you.”

Being a professional hasn’t changed the way Holland feels like he should act. Holland said that he never wants to act like someone that he’s not.

“I want people to see who I really am,” Holland said. “I’m just a laid-back guy trying to have some fun.”