OAKLAND, Calif. Richard Durrett didn’t take many road trips with the Texas Rangers anymore, not with budgets shrinking in this business and with too much money committed to the hopeless endeavors of the Dallas Cowboys.
The exception this season came in May, when the Rangers traveled to Detroit for what was supposed to be Prince Fielder’s first series against the team that traded him in November for Ian Kinsler and Kinsler’s first series against the Rangers.
That storyline never developed, with Fielder opting for neck surgery during the opener and with Kinsler taking a higher road than the one he did in a story that was published during spring training.
But there was plenty to write, and Richard wrote for ESPNDallas.com. A lot. Then, the ESPN mother ship called him to do some TV. Then, Eric Nadel had to leave the radio booth, so the Rangers asked Richard to work alongside Matt Hicks for the series finale.
In between, after the third game, one of those mid-afternoon starts that lead to late-night meals, Richard accompanied me and MLB.com Rangers beat man T.R. Sullivan to the Anchor Bar in downtown Detroit for a greasy burger and a couple of beers.
It gave me a chance to finally answer Richard’s steady line of questioning about when my wife and I were going to try for a second baby. I already had the answer, given to me about a month earlier during a trip to Oakland, but just a day earlier I had been evasive when he asked. Again.
I think Richard was more excited than I was when I told him about our first child. He had darn near hounded me and my wife, Jenny, for at least a couple years about when we were going to get going.
Richard already had two of his own, Owen and Alice. I didn’t know what I was missing, he would tell me, and he assured me that I would be a great father.
So, there at the Anchor Bar, having previously told only family members, Anthony Andro and my bosses, I told Richard and T.R. that I had breaking news: Jenny is pregnant with our second.
Richard was thrilled, naturally, with that big smile emerging and a good laugh accompanying it as he reminded me that I hadn’t been entirely truthful some 24 hours ago.
But he had breaking news of his own. His wife, Kelly, was pregnant with their third child.
What a day. What a memory. What a friend.
But now he’s gone, dead suddenly at age 38 after collapsing Tuesday and never getting up. He’s gone too soon, and, damn it, it’s not fair.
Since finding out Tuesday evening at O.co Coliseum, I’ve searched for the words, but could hardly speak them. I’ve searched for answers, but might never get them.
I’ve gone from shocked, to angry, to as sad as I can remember, to overwhelmed by all the kind words that have been expressed about Richard.
Everything that has been written or tweeted is 100 percent true. He really was as genuinely sweet as everyone has said. As selfless as everyone has said. As good at his job, which covered all forms of media and every sport in our area that needed to be covered, as everyone has said.
I wasn’t the only dad to receive a Happy Father’s Day text from him Sunday. He got us all, or as many of us as he could, and the gesture touched each of us.
He could take a punch, and even deliver one as part of the typical press-box banter. He was well-read. He was smart. He was a TCU graduate who hadn’t been entirely weaned off Auburn football.
My wife insists that Richard and I were the only people on earth still playing Words with Friends.
He was also a churchgoing man who sang in the choir, though he didn’t need to put in overtime to be in the good graces of the man upstairs.
Now that you have him, God, make sure that Richard’s children will see him when they dream. Make sure that those of us who knew him and loved him will have the chance to tell those kids, oh so young, how great he was.
Give the family, but especially Kelly, the strength they need.
She’s lost a great husband and great father. Those of us who knew him and worked alongside him have lost a great friend.
Our hearts are broken.