August 28, 2007
Rangers 4, White Sox 3
W: Wes Littleton
L: Mike MacDougal
S: Joaquin Benoit
HR: Paul Konerko (CHW), Jim Thome (CHW), Ian Kinsler (TEX), Gerald Laird (TEX)
Time of Game: 2 hours, 54 minutes
Location: Arlington, TX
First Game: April 11, 1994
My first trip to the state of Texas was during the last week of August 2007. That probably isn't the best time of the year to visit Texas, but nonetheless, I was ready to see just how hot it could get. Fortunately, it "only" reached the mid-90's in the couple days I spent in the Dallas area. I flew from Denver to Houston on a Monday and rented a car which I drove up to Dallas that afternoon. I stayed at a hotel in Arlington and was able to walk to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for a Tuesday night ballgame. I wound up spending almost all of my time in Arlington, so I really didn't see much of Dallas on this trip.
Arlington is about 20 miles west of Dallas. This makes the Rangers one of very few MLB teams that calls the suburbs home. The park is right down the street from the brand new Cowboys Stadium. At the time I was there, the football stadium was still in the early stages of construction. However, I did get a nice view of the progress as I walked right by it on my way to the ballpark. I'm curious to see what that area looks like these days with both stadiums up and running. In 2007, there wasn't a lot around there other than parking lots, although the Six Flags theme park is nearby as well. Originally named The Ballpark in Arlington when it opened in 1994, the park was later renamed to Ameriquest Field in Arlington, before switching to the current name in the year I visited.
No modern stadium has incorporated more retro ballpark themes than this one. From the red brick exterior, to the two level/porched right field seating, this stadium screams yesteryear. In true local fashion, everything really is bigger in Texas. An upper deck surrounds almost the entire stadium, except in center field where a four story office building creates a completely enclosed stadium. The lower level concourse has to be as large and wide as any concourse in baseball. The only problem is that it is located below the seating area, so you can't see the field from the concourse. This is definitely one of the most unique stadiums built in the last 20 years.
Despite these unique features, there are some things I don't like about the ballpark that keep me from naming Rangers Ballpark in Arlington among the best in baseball. First, I don't like the lack of openness. I think it is an especially odd design considering the extreme heat of Texas summers. Another head-scratcher is the location of the main scoreboard above the upper deck in right field. From field level seats, you almost have to strain your neck to peer up to it. Not to mention nobody in any of the numerous right field seats can see it. Finally, I appreciate the nod to old-fashioned ballparks with the right field seating design, however having poles that create obstructed views just doesn't make sense in a new stadium.
Much like my previous stop in Coors Field, Rangers Ballpark is another one that holds almost 50,000 fans. The three main seating levels stretch around foul territory, all the way out to left-center field. There are bleacher seats in left and right-center field surrounding a grassy backdrop in dead center. There is very little overlap between the main seating levels, so the upper deck is removed quite a bit from the playing field, however there are a lot of great seats in the lower level. For this game, I sat in the first row in right field.
Rangers Ballpark has a reputation as a great hitters park. This is primarily because the ball carries so well in the warm air. The outfield wall dimensions are very reasonable. In fact, the power alleys are quite deep and center field is very spacious. Perhaps the stadium's reputation is also built upon years of terrible Rangers pitching staffs. There is no reason a good pitcher couldn't be successful here.
I scheduled this trip around another White Sox visit. Unfortunately, I picked a bad summer to follow the Sox across the country. They stumbled into this game against an equally pathetic Rangers team. So it wound up being a battle of last place teams looking ahead to 2008. Gavin Floyd got the start for the Sox while Kason Gabbard took the hill for the Rangers. Both pitched decent games, but it wound up being the bullpens that decided this one.
The Sox struck first in the top of the first. Paul Konerko his a home run to deep right center to give the Sox a two run lead. In the third inning, Jim Thome hit a 422 foot bomb into the Rangers bullpen to increase the lead to 3-0. It was the third Thome home run I saw in person in the span of 10 days. It was also the 494th home run of his career. Ian Kinsler hit a solo home run for the Rangers in the bottom of the third to make it 3-1. The fourth home run of the game came the next inning as Gerald Laird hit a two run shot to tie the game. Home runs accounted for all six of the runs allowed by the starting pitchers.
The key moment of the game came in the top of the 8th with the game still tied at three. A single, walk and hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for the Sox with nobody out. Rangers reliever Wes Littleton managed to escape the jam without allowing a run to score. He induced a fielder's choice and a double play to get out of the inning. After blowing a golden opportunity in the top half, the Sox fell behind in the bottom half. Following a Michael Young single and a wild pitch by Mike MacDougal, Marlon Byrd knocked Young in with a single up the middle. Joaquin Benoit came in for the Rangers in the 9th and retired the Sox in order to secure a 4-3 victory for the Rangers.
Both teams were in last place at this point. The Rangers wound up finishing the season in last, while the Sox moved up a spot. However, the Rangers won 75 games in 2007 compared to just 72 for the White Sox. I wound up going back to the park for the second game in this series the following night. Once again, the Rangers won by a run, 5-4 in 11 innings. That game was even more painful to watch as a Sox fan since the hated Sammy Sosa wound up recording the game tying and game winning hits. Fortunately, I left town before the Rangers finished off the sweep on Thursday. After a few days in the Dallas area, I took off for Houston on Thursday for the 30th and final stop of my tour.
I'm actually making a return trip to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in just a couple weeks. I will be in Texas for a wedding and coincidentally the Sox are playing in Arlington that same weekend. Even though the wedding is down in San Antonio, I'm planning on driving up there for the Sunday night game. Hopefully the Sox will have better luck this time around.
Next stadium: Minute Maid Park, Houston