Ron Washington called the meeting for the morning of March 17 at the Texas Rangers' spring training camp in aptly named Surprise, Ariz.

Washington, the Rangers' manager, was about to tell his players he had tested positive for cocaine in July 2009.

On that morning, it would have been impossible for Washington to predict what was going to happen, both to him and his team. He knew he wasn't going to lose his job - the Rangers were aware of the failed test when it occurred and decided to retain him - but Washington didn't know if he was going to lose his players.

He didn't. And now Washington is managing with a chance to take the Rangers to the World Series if they can conquer the Yankees in the ALCS.

"I've been in the game a long time, and there's a lot of baseball players that don't like their skipper," Washington said. "But they respect me. They know I'm honest. They know I have a huge heart. They know all I've ever wanted to do was the best for them. And it meant a lot to me, personally, when they rallied and decided to support me."

Washington, 58, might have been one of the most anonymous managers before word of his failed test leaked. Then he was famous for all the wrong reasons.

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After a 10-year career as a utility infielder in which he batted .261 and 11 seasons as a coach with the Athletics, Washington didn't get his first big-league managing opportunity until the Rangers hired him to replace Buck Showalter in 2007. Washington's record in his first three seasons was 241-245.

But the Rangers were impressed that Washington informed them he was going to fail the test before they learned of it from an outside source. They believed him when he said it was a one-time thing.

Team president Nolan Ryan said he and GM Jon Daniels "did a lot of soul-searching. We just felt that we had given a lot of other people in our organization a second chance and we certainly felt like Ron was deserving of that."

And there they were last night at Yankee Stadium, trying to take a 2-1 series lead on the defending World Series champions. It didn't seem possible on the morning of March 17 in Surprise, Ariz.

"I'm just very fortunate to be the manager of the Texas Rangers," Washington said. "I can never thank the organization for the opportunity, and I can never thank the organization for standing behind me, and the players, and the coaches. As I told them, I didn't want their sympathy. I just want their heart, and they gave me their heart because they know they had mine."