09/23 01:25 CDT Rangers play final homestand ahead of move to new stadium
Rangers play final homestand ahead of move to new stadium
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Baseball Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) --- Elvis Andrus has spent his entire career as a player
in the Texas Rangers' ballpark, from his debut as a 20-year-old shortstop to
consecutive World Series and now being the team's longest-tenured player.
Hunter Pence grew up in Arlington dreaming of what it would be like to play
there while watching in awe the construction of the retro-style ballpark that
opened in 1994, only days before his 11th birthday. He later parked cars there
as a teen, his pay being hot dogs and game tickets, before the four-time MLB
All-Star this year played with his hometown Rangers for the first time.
The stadium halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, first known as The Ballpark
in Arlington, is down to its final homestand after more than 2,000 regular
season games over 26 seasons. Kenny Rogers pitched a perfect game in the first
summer there, and MLB's first interleague game was played there in 1997. An
All-Star Game was played in the Texas heat, and those two World Series were
among 25 postseason games.
"It's not that old. It's still a beautiful stadium," Mark Teixeira, whose MLB
debut was with the Rangers, said when he returned this summer to be part of a
nightly countdown to the final game. "It was home, and it was a special place.
But then coming back here as a visitor, you have a different appreciation, and
it's one the best ballparks in baseball. I still think it's one of the best
ballparks in baseball."
Before moving across the street next season into a $1 billion-plus
air-conditioned stadium with a retractable roof, the Rangers have three games
this week against the Boston Red Sox and then end the season with three games
against the AL East champion New York Yankees.
The Yankees, who eliminated Texas from the playoffs after each of its first
three AL West titles in the 1990s, were in the visiting dugout for what most
consider the biggest moment in stadium history. Under Friday night lights in
October 2010, the Rangers clinched their first AL pennant when closer Neftal
Feliz got former Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez on a called third strike for
the final out in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series.
"That meant the most," said slugger Josh Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP who was also
the MVP of that championship series.
"A moment that will never go away," said Andrus, the two-time All-Star who is
now 31 and wrapping up his 11th season. "Every time I see it, I get goosebumps
and it brings a lot of great memories."
Chuck Morgan has been the Rangers' public address announcer for all but one
season since 1983, with his trademark phrase "It's Baseball Time in Texas"
helping set up each home game from old Arlington Stadium to the current
ballpark and in the future at the new place. He is credited with creation of
the dot race, which has transformed through the years from simple dots on a
scoreboard screen to actual people dressed as dots racing on the field.
"Prior to moving over here, we never had won everything," Morgan said from his
small office behind the PA booth. "That first time we won the American League
West in 1996 was pretty special. ... But the ultimate greatest moment for me in
Globe Life Park was when we clinched our first American League pennant."
Hall of Fame catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is one of four Rangers players who
have had AL MVP seasons in the stadium. He was the MVP in 1999, after Juan
Gonzalez was a two-time winner (1996 and 1998), and before A-Rod (2003) and
Hamilton won their awards.
Adrin Beltr, the Rangers third baseman who retired after last season and is a
sure-bet Hall of Fame pick when eligible, got his 3,000th career hit in Texas
in July 2017. Rafael Palmeiro belted his 500th career homer with the Rangers in
May 2003, four years before Sammy Sosa was with Texas for his 600th homer there.
"I still remember the first time coming here," said Pence, whose first game in
Arlington was a rookie with the Houston Astros in 2007. "I still remember the
memories and the feelings and the excitement ... I still get the same thing
from being a fan in the upper deck, of coming as a kid with binoculars, of when
they built the stadium. Every time I come here, it's a special feeling."
Along with the two AL pennant clinchers, Hamilton was also part of the most
difficult night at the ballpark. Texas firefighter Shannon Stone was at a game
with his young son in the left-field stands in July 2011 when he reached out
for a foul ball tossed his way by Hamilton, the boy's favorite player. Stone
fell headfirst about 20 feet onto concrete behind the outfield wall and was
pronounced dead within an hour.
A statue just outside the home plate gate depicts Stone and his son, Cooper,
and is inscribed "In memory of Shannon Stone and dedicated to all fans who love
Before Game 1 of the 2011 AL Division Series, 6-year-old Cooper returned to the
ballpark to throw the ceremonial first pitch. His catcher was Hamilton, who
shared hugs in his first meeting with the boy.
The Rangers' final night game at the ballpark will be Saturday, with a special
ceremony after the last out to turn out the lights.
Before the final game Sunday afternoon, the national anthem will be performed
by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, which accompanied the late
internationally renowned pianist Van Cliburn in a stirring rendition of "The
Star-Spangled Banner" before the first regular-season game April 11, 1994.
After that 2,081st regular-season game there, the Rangers will dig up home
plate and parade it across the street for a ceremonial installation at the new
stadium. That will replicate what the team did in October 1993 after finishing
its 22nd season at Arlington Stadium.
"This is certainly a bittersweet season for us that love this place and have
spent 25 years here," said Richard Greene, the mayor in the early 1990s who
played a major role in getting the current ballpark to keep the Rangers in
Arlington, and understands the decision for a new retractable-roof stadium now.
"We got behind the initiative, and wanted to make sure that once again that we
kept ourselves as a major league city."
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