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"Mr. President." "Mr. President." And Other Rangers Giggles.

SURPRISE, Arizona -- Regardless of your sports pangs, you should be plenty satiated today. The Mavs and Jason Kidd play at San Antonio. The Stars and Brad Richards host Chicago. The Cowboys -- who appear willing to let Julius Jones walk -- begin free agency. And out here in Arizona (today it’s Tempe), the Rangers will play their first game under the watchful eye of new team president Nolan Ryan.

A day after coming up with the all-time excused absence, Ryan arrives in the desert just in time to watch Kason Gabbard pitch a couple innings to the Anaheim Angels, before attending a team sponsors meeting tonight. Ryan was supposed to arrive Wednesday, but seems he had other plans. The president lunched with The President.

Ryan flew to D.C. Wednesday for a sitdown with former Rangers owner and current head of the free world George W. Bush. “I don’t know any other team presidents that can have lunch with the president,” Rangers owner Tom Hicks told a gaggle of media after showing up at Texas’ Surprise camp Wednesday afternoon.

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As for Ryan, he’ll get his contract hammered out this week -- a deal that will likely run through 2011 and include stock options in Hicks Holdings LLC. Hicks also said general manager Jon Daniels will receive a contract extension that will allow his deal to run parallel with Ryan's.

“We’re still on the path we planned on being on,” Hicks said. “I like what I see this year and for next year and the year after that. Things could spike up this year. Look at last year. Three of the final four were teams that went to spring training not being viewed as a contender. We’re going to have a good infield, good catching and we remade our outfield. Everything else comes down to pitching.”

The Rangers dependent upon pitching. Is there an echo in here? --Richie Whitt

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