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There’s No Place Like Home!

Can I just say that walking in to the Pro Shop at the Ballpark in Arlington was like heaven! I’ve been surrounded with Angels fans and Angels gear and Angels rally monkeys and Angel Flags and Blah Blah Blah for WAY too long. I needed some Ranger in my life. I actually wanted to buy the whole store but then I couldn’t pay for the rest of my trip, so I settled for a cute Rangers shirt for my little baby nephew to wear to the game when I come to Anaheim. I was really stoked to see some old friends! Like a school reunion! Thanks to Blake Lemons, Drew Smith, Zach McKim, Jordan Hartsell, Caitlin Collins, Mackenzie Johnson, and Shondra Carter for coming out to see me and experience our first game of the trip!

It’s crazy how much you don’t really appreciate things or how you think of them when you grow up next to them. I know people who grew up in LA, but have never been to Hollywood Blvd and people come from all over the globe to just to walk down the street and take pictures of a marble star that people walk all over. The same goes for me I grew up going to Texas games but I had never done the tour. And also explains why I forgot to take lots of pictures and why I forgot to get my MLB passport stamp….dangit.

Well, this time I wasn’t skipping the tour. Bob was our tour guide and he was incredibly knowledgable. We toured with two Detroit fans, and it was fun to poke fun and give each other crap the whole time. My favorite part was getting to sit in the dugout. I kinda went crazy, my heart was beating fast and I was just plain star struck, like a little kid. The Ranger’s picked the first base dugout when the park was first built because it is the first one that gets shade. They are smart. I’m actually upset I didn’t have the courage to leave a love note in Craig Gentry’s helmet! He wears a 7 1/8 inch in case you were curious. Alexi Ogando is currently on the DL and therefore when I brushed shoulders with him in the hallway I was caught way too off guard to even think straight…basically I need to get it together! I learned that there is a room called the Ryan Room right behind the dugout. It doubles as a training room but it was Nolan Ryan’s idea to increase the size of the room to allow pinch runners or new batters or just anyone feeling a little stiff during the game. The suites have names from different Hall of Famers and lots of them played for the Yankees…so of course my Yankee friend Shondra was going crazy about that.

In case you didn’t know: It is up to the starting pitcher what color the Rangers wear for their home games.

The game that we went to was one of the greatest pitching match ups that has happened this season. Darvish VS Verlander. I love that they play Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” when Yu pitches, pretty fantastic and made me smile. There was a ton of talk about how Rangers have not had a huge challenge yet this season and blah blah blah…well we rocked Verlander, one of the best pitchers in baseball currently. Until he came to Arlington at least… we put up 8 runs on him the first 3 innings…7 of which came from the 3rd. AND two of them were walked in! BULLPENNNNNNN!!!! He didn’t last past that. And he racked up his second loss in a row.

Darvish lasted a little longer than usual. He threw through the 8th and had a career high of 130 pitches. He allowed 7 hits and 4 runs but with the run support, it was no issue. With a 10-4 win over the Tigers, he is now 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA.

Some of the things that made me feel at home about the park were some things I remembered from being a little girl. When the Tigers went to the bullpen the scoreboard doesn’t let him go easy. They play a cartoon with a Texas Ranger batter with oversized cowboy boots on who stomps to the mound and kicks the opposing pitcher out…and I love it. I can sing my heart out to “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” in the middle of the 5th and there is the Texas Legends race in the middle of the 6th. This is where mascots dressed as Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Sam Houston race around the field. That’s also an exciting experience. If you don’t know who they are…you’re not a Texan so don’t worry about it. I’m wondering if this replaced the dot races that used to happen at the ballpark. They would pass out little Ozarka cards with a red, green, or blue dot and people dressed in Dot Mascots would race around the park. And people would cheer for the card that they got. As a little girl I was sneaky and I would take one of every color…I’m too competitive to lose to my dad and that method was foolproof! At the top of the 7th they do the ‘Steal a Base’ where they have a young kid run from outfield to pick up third base and bring it back and if they do it under a certain time they get to keep it. I’m always jealous of that…I would so get back in time and I want a real base!! Obviously we play “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch but if you stay standing you can dance to a southern classic “Cotten Eyed-Joe” immediately after.

All of these traditions are what makes one fall in love with their home field. I know that as a 22 year old I can come to the park and sing the same songs and look forward to the same same activities that I did when I was 5. It brings you back to that place and just puts a smile on your face and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I loved being back home and I loved watching Texas whoop up on the Tigers. I can’t wait to watch Texas again on Memorial Day.

What I learned from my friends that did the tour with me was that only in baseball do you have a connection between players, fans, and managers. It’s different than other sports. It’s like you can understand one another on a different level and you can feed off their passion.

Well the bar is filling up across the street from Minute Maid! Which tells me its about time I get ready for the game….Rootin for the home team tonight!!! Royals @ Astros

Texas Love is Patient

THE Texas Rangers.

I’m fanatical about them.

Before I tell you about the Verlander vs Darvish game that I went to on 5/16 here is a little bit of history about my favorite team and their park.

Everything’s bigger in Texas…including the love for our Rangers.

Yes, It has been heartbreaking the last three seasons. I’ve cried, yelled, and been speechless on more than one occasion. So please, don’t remind me how many times we were one out away or one strike away. I’m fully aware and I am still healing.

I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite childhood memories are going to the Ballpark in Arlington with my dad and my glove. Pudge was my hero! Most little girls want tea parties and dress up…not me. I wanted baseball. I still want baseball, and when I’m at a Rangers game I feel like I’m home.

The Texas Rangers started as the Washington Senators. In 1961 after the original Senators moved to Minnesota, Major League baseball granted the nation’s capitol with one of four expansion teams that year. They took the same name as the old team, but were a completely new ball club.

In the first years the team was a joke. Literally. “Washington: first in war, first in peace, and still last in the American League.” They only had one winning season as the Senators. Fans stayed away while the Orioles only 45 miles away won four pennants and two World Series from 1966-1971. Bob Hope, the club’s GM, got approval to move to Arlington, Texas for the 1972 season. Arlington Mayor, Tom Vandergriff was definitely open to the idea. The team was officially named theTexas Rangers after the famous Texas Rangers law enforcement.

The Senators’ last game was chaos. Fans were livid. After the Security guards walked out early, around 10,000 fans entered the game for free. With the Senators up 7-5 in the top of the 9th, fans raided the field for souvenirs. With no bases left, no security, and fans everywhere the umpire called the game. The Senators forfeited their last game to the Yankees.

Moving to Arlington was an ideal location. Dead center of the Metroplex, halfway between Fort Worth and Dallas, the team would be able to attract a huge fan base. It pains me to say our first game on April 15, 1972 we lost to the Angels. I guess the only good part about that is that the next day we beat them. The very first Texas Rangers victory was over the Angels.

Turnpike Stadium, later named Arlington Stadium for the MLB team, was built as a minor league park in 1965. The vision of the stadium was to attract a Major League team and therefore was built to major league speculations and with the ability to expand seats when needed. The stadium had the largest bleacher section in the Major Leagues. “Bat Night” was a promotional night where kids under 12 would receive bats to bang on the bleachers to create a deafening sound. With a struggling team, this was often the only sell-out night of the year. I’m proud to say Arlington Stadium was the first in the Majors to sell nachos…I love nachos. Until 1978, the stadium had the ability to be used as a football field. That changed when they permanently fixed seats and added an upper deck. The biggest draw back to the stadium was the heat. It’sTexas, and it’s HOT. Summer temperatures often rise over 100 and no to mention the ridiculous amount of humidity. You can walk outside and two minutes later feel like you just got out of the pool. The Stadium didn’t have a roof, so there was no blocking the rays of the Texas sun. I can only imagine the sunburns that were created. For this reason most of the Rangers home games were played at night. This is still true today. Another early tradition that still stands is the playing “Cotton Eyed Joe” during the 7th inning stretch. It is always fun to do a little dancin’ after your stretchin’.

Arlington stadium, unfortunately, never saw a post season or an All-Star game. Only two players, Cal Ripkin Jr. and Oddibe McDowell, hit for the cycle and Mike Witt pitched the 11th perfect game in MLB history. Perhaps Arlington Stadiums best moments were Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strike out and 7th no-hitter.

With Arlington Stadium aging and becoming less functional for the team, plans for The Ballpark in Arlington began. With George W. Bush as part owner the new stadium broke ground on October 10, 1991. When Bush was elected Governor ofTexas, he left his position with the Rangers.

The Ballpark in Arlington brought the same home plate, foul poles and some of the bleachers from the old field. The bleachers are now painted green but if you could find chipping paint you can experience the original Arlington Stadium. Those bleachers have since been removed and replaced with The Batters’ Eye Club. True baseball fans will notice glimmers of other parks in the architecture. The roof top double-decker outfield porch clearly copies Tiger Stadium, Fenways out-of-town scoreboard, which has been replaced by a video board, was depicted in the outfield wall, the irregularities of the outfield fence are similar to Ebbets the white fences in centerfields’ upper deck are reminiscent of old Yankee Stadium ( actually office buiildings…it’s a good thing I don’t work there I’d never get anything done), and the outer structure combines arches of original Comiskey and red brick of Camden Yards. Outside the park, on the north and west sides, is the Rangers Walk of Fame. Brick panels with the rosters of every team since the Senators moved to Texas in 1972. As for the MVP, Gold Gloves and other awards, there are special markers to set them out from the rest.

The Rangers Hall of Fame is an exciting attraction for the baseball enthusiast. Vandergriff Plaza in center field is fun for the family. Here you can find a statue of Tom Vandergriff ( the father of theTexas Rangers) and Nolan Ryan. And if you’re expecting a home run, run to Greene’s hill, jump the fence and race the 10 year old boys for the ball before it rolls down the hill. Greene’s Hill is the all green batters eye located in center field. It is name after ex Arlington Mayor, Richard Greene, and is definitely a home run ball magnet.

The park opened in 1994 with an exhibition game against the Mets on April 1 and the first actual game against the Brewers on April 11. The next year Johnny Oates was brought on as the manager and the park hosted its first All Star Game. In 1996 Oates lead the team to see it’s first Division Series victory and was later awarded Manager of the Year. That year AL MVP went to Rangers Outfielder and one of the most feared RBI producers in the game, Juan Gonzalez. Oates also led the team to two consecutive AL West titles in 1998 and 1999 but neither year could they get past the Yankees…suffering two back to back sweeps in the ALDS.

As a Rangers fan, I’m used to inconsistency. You could find Texas Rangers in the dictionary definition of the word. We never failed to put star players on the field. Big names have worn Texas on their shirt : Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Rustry Greer, A-Rod, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, Michael Young, Hank Blalock, David Dellucci, Sammy Sosa, Frank Catalanotto, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli… and so many more. But we haven’t been able to take it all. I just want one World Series!

Whether is declaring bankruptcy or being one shy of MLB team strikeout record in one game and three days later smashing the record for runs by one team beating the Orioles 30-3 or leading the AL West the entire season only to lose the title in game 162 to a fairy tale team…being a Rangers fan is nothing but roller coaster ride. I can say though that the first two years of Nolan Ryan owning the team we had a World Series appearance…maybe we just have to be patient, I have faith, I love the Rangers, always have, always will.

 GO RANGERS!