It also didn’t hurt that Texas batting coach Rudy Jaramillo coached Sosa in the Rangers’ minor league system two decades ago and stayed close to him since. Or Sosa agreed to leave his boom box at home and check his entourage at the clubhouse door. That left only two questions and, as Texas general manager Jon Daniels told SI.com last week, Sosa aced the final part of the exam. “We wanted to make sure he wasn’t coming back just to hit 12 home runs,” Daniels told the magazine. And steroids? “He said it was flat-out a non-issue for him,” Daniels added. Sosa has managed to make it a non-issue so far by deflecting questions this way: “Let me make the team first, and then let me worry about this.” It’s not much of an answer, but at least it shows Sosa has his priorities in order. Maybe taking a big risk comes easy to someone who started out playing baseball in the streets with bundled rags for balls and tied-together milk cartons for shoes. And who could forget Sosa in the early days of the steroids scare, calling reporters over to his locker and holding up a bottle of Flintstones vitamins as the source of his considerable power? Or the time he got caught using a corked bat and swore with a straight face that it was just for batting practice, “to put on a show for the people”? This one could turn out to be a show, too, or more likely, a sideshow to Barry Bonds’ gloomy pursuit of Hank Aaron’s cherished mark. Either way, it’s an audacious dare. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! If you don’t think that stings, then you don’t know Sosa. “I’ve missed the fans. I’ve missed crowds of 40,000, I’ve missed hitting,” Sosa said. “I’ve missed doing what I do.” No sooner had Sosa hit his second home run of the exhibition season – out of the appropriately named Surprise Stadium in a win Wednesday over the Diamondbacks – a lot of people sounded convinced he still can do what he once did. The Rangers’ risk in this is minimal. As if the contract didn’t prove they’re no longer in the charity business, know that owner Tom Hicks parted with even that piece of change only after sitting down to dinner with Sosa and sending his scouts to the Dominican Republic to confirm Sosa was working as hard as reports said he was. Judging by his appearance this spring – a taut 225 pounds – Sosa was. But money, at least as one measure of how far his star has fallen, does matter. Mike Piazza, who’s also 38, is getting $8.5 million to be a designated hitter in Oakland, and he trails Sosa on the career RBI list by almost 300. The guy Piazza replaced, 38-year-old Frank Thomas, just signed for two years and $18 million in Toronto, and he’s 101 home runs behind Sosa on that list. Sammy Sosa didn’t come out of hiding and amble into baseball for the money. He’s got plenty. Even if Sosa earns a spot with the Texas Rangers as a designated hitter and triggers every bonus clause in his contract during the regular season – the final frontier: 600 plate appearances – he still makes only $2.8 million. That might sound like a lot, but not to a guy who banked eight-figure checks nearly every year for a decade.