Derek Holland and Mark Lowe both pitch for the Texas Rangers but the similarities don’t end there. They are both also pretty big hockey fans.
Holland, a 24-year-old starter who is in his third big-league season, is known affectionately to fans as the Dutch Oven. When he’s not busy cracking jokes, preparing for his next start or playing the great game, he keeps up with what’s happening in the NHL, which he started following in his native Ohio after the Blue Jackets joined the league in 2000.
“When I was little, we had a minor-league team, the Columbus Chill. We went and watched them all the time,” Holland said. “Then, in 2000, we got the Blue Jackets and I really got into the NHL big time. My favorite player was Rick Nash and I followed him all the time. I really got into hockey after we got an actual team. Once I got to see professional hockey, I fell in love with it a lot more.”
Even though he loved the game, he never played hockey in his formative years.
“We didn’t have a team growing up. Hockey wasn’t that big where I was from,” Holland said. “Once I got to high school, all the city schools around us combined to make one team that played against all the other city schools.”
Lowe is a veteran reliever who grew up in Houston before later attending UTA. Unlike his teammate and neighbor in the Ranger clubhouse, his younger days included plenty of skating and stick handling.
“I played hockey growing up, street hockey. I wish I could have played ice hockey but growing up in Texas, you don’t get that chance,” Lowe said. “I just remember playing a lot of hockey computer games growing up. I remember NHL ’94 and all those. That really got me into it, doing stuff like that. I just enjoy watching it.”
Besides both pitching for the Rangers and both being hockey fans, this duo has something else in common. They both live in the Phoenix area in the off-season and are big fans of the Coyotes.
|Mark Lowe |
“I’ve got season tickets for the Coyotes in Phoenix, so I go to all those games,” Holland said. “Then I’ll come out here too and when we do events here, I’ll try and catch Stars games too.”
Lowe doesn’t have season tickets but does catch the Coyotes on the tube whenever he can during the off-season.
“I didn’t get a chance to go this off-season to a Coyotes game. When they’re on TV, I’m watching them,” he said. “Playoff hockey, there’s nothing better to watch.”
Speaking of playoff hockey, during this interview, Holland and Lowe got into a passionate discussion about Vancouver’s 5-2 win over San Jose in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals. Right after Holland expressed how much he liked Vancouver, Lowe asked him how the Canucks fared in the 5-on-3 in that game, a query Holland couldn’t answer.
It illustrated the kind of serious hockey discussion that goes on between the two pitchers on a regular basis in the Rangers room.
When he’s in town during the winter, Holland makes it a point to attend Stars games. He even struck up a friendship with enforcer Steve Ott
last fall, who like the Dutch Oven, is regarded as one of the funnier members of his team.
“He’s a good dude. He’s very funny. That’s for sure,” Holland said of Ott. “I met him when we were here. I think we just beat the Yankees and they had a game. We went out there and Wash was dropping the puck. That’s when I got to meet the whole team.”
The Ranger starter has drug several of his teammates out to Stars games including all-star second baseman Ian Kinsler and fellow starter Tommy Hunter.
“I got Ian to go to a couple games with me. Ever since his wife was pregnant, he didn’t get to go to too many,” Holland said.
All-star shortstop Elvis Andrus even took in a Stars game last fall with former teammate Jorge Cantu but said earlier in the year he doesn’t make many games since he lives in his native Dominican Republic during the winter.
Infielder Chris Davis, a native of Longview who was recently optioned to Triple-A Round Rock, said he makes the drive to Dallas several times each off-season to catch the Stars.
Holland has even got several members of his family hooked on his other favorite sport.
“My uncle, my brother and my best friend go with me. I got my dad into it,” Holland said. “My mom doesn’t really know too much but she just watches it. My dad’s into it. My uncle is into it and my brother has been into it. My best friend has always been into it.”
All told, the affable Ranger starter made almost every Phoenix home game last season and also caught about 10 Stars games.
The Dutch Oven also has a budding collection of hockey jerseys.
“I’d probably say [I have about] 20. The only one that I have framed right now is Rick Nash in the Team Canada jersey,” Holland said. “I had to get that one framed. That’s my favorite player.”
During his frequent trips to Coyotes games, he struck up a friendship with Phoenix captain Shane Doan and the two even swapped jerseys with Holland getting a retro Winnipeg Jets sweater in the deal.
“Doan and I were going to do a jersey swap and when I did the jersey swap, I told him to get me a throwback Winnipeg jersey. I got that [a Rangers jersey] for him and he was trying to find me one,” Holland said. “We did a jersey swap and then he got me into the Winnipeg website and they made an announcement about me collecting jerseys. So I got the Winnipeg throwback jersey. It was pretty neat. He did a lot of that. Hopefully we can link up when I get back to Arizona and do some charity work.”