Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Game #13: Baseball in Big D

Ok, so this *is* Texas. Which means that really, football is king. But, for the second night in a row, I was able to watch a ballgame in a really fantastic ballpark. I’d been to see the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington once before, but found myself even more impressed this time.

To start with, it’s BIG. Yes, it’s still a new baseball-only park, but, as is appropriate to Texas in general and Big D in particular, this is a large park. And many of the features reinforce that. There are great massive archways around the outside of the stadium, the gates are huge, and the concourses are massive. But it all works – my seat was a good one, but even wandering around the park, the sightlines looked good throughout.

Of course, appropriate to Dallas, the park’s in the middle of nowhere. Arlington’s a middle-ground between Dallas and Ft Worth, and appears to be the constructed-entertainment center of town. Therefore, the amusement parks, ballpark, and forthcoming new football stadium (Will God still be able to watch through a hole in the roof, Jerry?) are all out there. That’s definitely a downside, compared to the great appeal of downtown parks, but hey, it’s fitting to the area.

Meanwhile, they’ve somehow perfected the art of putting the park in the suburbs, but still not making the parking convenient. My parking spot, in the general lot, was still a bit of a hike, especially in the 100-degree Dallas heat. But, since I’d shown up quite early, so as to visit the Legends of the Game Sports Museum in the park, I was actually given a ride by the employee shuttle bus, which happened to be driving by. They all gave me a hard time about my Red Sox shirt (hey, it was blue-and-red), though not for my Giants hat, but it was a well-appreciated touch.

The Legends of the Game Museum was a nice visit, and moderate amount of the memorabilia there is actually borrowed from Cooperstown. Having missed the Baseball Hall of Fame on this trip, it was nice to spend some time here, and they’ve done a very good job with the place. A couple of interesting items worth pointing out here: A jersey from the Say Hey Kid, and the famous crown trophy given to the Babe.

The park’s quite reminiscent of Jacob’s field, in that it is new, nicely featured, baseball-only, and well-outfitted, but not the full-blown new-retro of Pac Bell, PNC, or Coors. The two most distinctive attributes, within the bowl, are probably the ornate white-steel-and-glass building front in center, and the old-fashioned pillared double-decker grandstand in right field. Both are definitely nice touches, and add character to the building.

Despite the size of the interior, the Ballpark also includes a feature I’d love to see at more parks: An open-air space outside the building that’s actually included in the ticketed area. There’s a certain discomfort with walking out of the building mid-way through the game, as I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d not be allowed in, but this outdoor area, bounded by two fences and a lake, is actually part of the park. Good stuff.

The luxury suites, in a great touch, are not numbered, but are instead each named after a hall-of-fame baseball player.

Unfortunately, while you can bring a horse to water… Did I say this was a football town? Well, it was borne out in the approach of the fans to the game. This was not a Boston/NY/Chicago crowd.
• Example #1: At a key junction in the top of the 7th, with the Rangers up by 4, the A’s loaded the bases with no one out. The new Ranger reliever was able to induce a pop-up, throw a strikeout, and get a weak grounder to 1st, to get out of it with no damage. A wildly enthusiastic crowd? Fans standing and cheering at 2-strike counts? Nah…. At the time, there were several fans busy trying to start the wave in my section, around whom I had to shift and peer in order to see the drama below.
• Example #2: While I’m still waiting for a truly moving 7th inning stretch (the Yankees do it well, but not on an everyday basis – Wrigley, I’m counting on you), this was a low point. Mostly because there were quite a few people… yep… not even standing. Hmmm…
But, hey. This is a last-place team, and Cowboys training camp is well underway, so perhaps I’m asking too much? The fans who were left at the end of the 9th did give it a good cheer as the game came to a close, though.

Still, definitely an enjoyable place to watch a game, and a good experience. I’d hesitate before buying a day-game ticket in August, but I’d certainly come back if in town.

Off to Kansas City tomorrow and to the heart of the Mid-West.

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