PHOENIX — Alvin, Texas is a town between somewhere and nowhere.

Located halfway between Houston and the Gulf of Mexico, about 10 miles southwest of Interstate 45, Alvin is home to just 27,576 souls. There’s a Walmart, but the nearest Target is 20 miles up the road. Alvin High School is the only high school in the city.

A few blocks away from the high school lies a statue, a bronze monument to Alvin’s most famous son: Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. For 27 years, Ryan wowed the baseball world with his trademark heat and unflinching tenacity. Alvin is where that legacy began and where it endures. In 2009, the junior high school in town was renamed Nolan Ryan Junior High. His picture is hung up in almost every BBQ joint, corner store and eat place. The Nolan Ryan Center on the campus of Alvin Community College flies the flags of the four franchises Ryan played for during his career.

It was in this environment, this singular baseball town, this living testament to the most Texas of pitchers, that Nathan Eovaldi grew up.

On Wednesday night, the Rangers ace accomplished something his hometown hero never did: win a World Series for the state of Texas. In six sturdy, scoreless innings, Eovaldi kept the Arizona Diamondbacks at bay. As his counterpart Zac Gallen diced through the Rangers lineup, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Eovaldi matched the zeroes despite looking a substandard version of himself.

“What a job he did. He was in trouble, I think, every inning,” manager Bruce Bochy said after the Rangers clinched their first title in franchise history with a 5-0 victory in Game 5. “He’s done this his whole career. So, we had the right guy out there. Thank goodness we had Nathan going today.”

The 33-year-old walked five batters in the series clincher, his most free passes in an outing since July 30, 2013. There was Diamondbacks traffic all night. Arizona was one hit away from chaos multiple times. Eovaldi was nearly pulled with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth. But the Texas son did not break, he did not fold, and he set the stage for the late-inning offensive heroics that carried this Rangers franchise to their first World Series championship.

This was not Eovaldi’s first taste of October glory. In the 2018 World Series, he delivered six spectacular innings of relief in a mythical 18 inning marathon between the Red Sox and Dodgers. His performance that night was magnificent and heroic, but ended bitterly, with the Dodgers’ Max Muncy belting a walk-off to send everyone home. Boston won that World Series, but Eovaldi never got to start a game, never quite got his moment in the sun. There was an odd irony to the fact that before this October, his most incredible postseason outing came in a devastating loss.

But this month, Eovaldi — and the Rangers — re-wrote the story.

Rangers’ Nathan Eovaldi escapes bases-loaded jam vs. D-backs

Over the past two offseasons, Texas spent boatloads of coin in free agency on Jacob deGrom, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Martín Pérez and Eovaldi. This past winter, upon signing a two-year, $34 million dollar deal, Eovaldi was asked whether the Rangers’ interest surprised him given the club’s most recent pitching acquisitions.

“When they signed deGrom and Heaney, I thought the chance might be over,” Eovaldi admitted that day. “But we were able to get it done and I’m super excited to be here.”

That Eovaldi grew up a Houston Astros fan only slightly muddles the narrative. His earliest baseball memories center on trips to the Astrodome and getting to watch the Jeff Bagwell-Lance Berkman-Craig Biggio “Killer B” teams.

But above all that, he remembers Ryan.

“It would have to be the Nolan Ryan stuff,” he told FOX Sports regarding his first memory of the Rangers. “His picture was everywhere. All around town.”

During his senior year at Alvin High School, Eovaldi’s tantalizing fastball drew scouts from all across the country to Nolan Ryan Field. When Eovaldi made his MLB debut for the Dodgers in 2011, becoming just the second alumni of Alvin High to make the big leagues, local paper the Alvin Sun & Advertiser made sure to reference Ryan in the recap

“On another note, Friday’s victory marked the 325th career victory for former Yellowjacket hurlers in the big leagues. The other 324 belong to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.”

‘I want to be one of the best’ – Nathan Eovaldi reflects on winning five postseason starts with the Rangers

But Ryan, for all his impact, for all his dominance, won just one World Series in his 27-year career, and it came with the Mets in just his third season, before he rose to prominence. The strikeout king spent 14 seasons playing for teams in the state of Texas and they never so much as reached the Fall Classic. After finally hanging up the spikes at 46 years old, Ryan went on to join the Rangers’ ownership group before being named team president in 2008. He was in attendance for Texas’ gut-wrenching World Series defeat in 2011 before leaving the organization to join the Astros as an “executive adviser” in 2014.

But on Wednesday night, Eovaldi finished the job for Alvin, cementing his name in Texas baseball lore next to Ryan’s. The notion of the big, sturdy, power right-hander from Texas with the special fastball began with Ryan, continued with the likes of Kerry Wood and Josh Beckett and manifested once again in Game 5 with Eovaldi, who became the first pitcher in MLB history to win five starts in a single postseason. And though “Nasty Nate” isn’t a stereotypical Texan — unlike Ryan he doesn’t have an accent and, gasp, doesn’t own cowboy boots — he’s immensely proud of his state and the opportunity to bring home a World Series championship.

“It’s the only team out there that says Texas,” Eovaldi said Wednesday night. “You’re playing for the state. You’re not just playing for the city. And to be able to say I’m from Texas, it means a lot to me. I carry a lot of pride with it.”

Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He played college baseball, poorly at first, then very well, very briefly. Jake lives in New York City where he coaches Little League and rides his bike, sometimes at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.

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