The National Football League’s television ratings after three full weeks of games indicate that professional football is America’s sport of choice in the 21st century. Despite a full slate of NFL games and summer heat lingering in North Texas, however, 43,508 fans attended the Texas Rangers home finale against the Seattle Mariners. Not only did the near-capacity crowd receive free t-shirts as part of fan appreciation day, but they also were treated to a 12-5 victory featuring a grand slam.
Having attended Rangers games three years ago as a freshman, I can tell you that much has changed. Two summers ago Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg and their business group purchased the Texas Rangers from Tom Hicks who filed for bankruptcy. Last year, the Rangers’ general manager, Jon Daniels, made a cannonball splash by acquiring a legitimate “ace” in starting left-hand pitcher Cliff Lee. This acquisition complemented the Rangers’ offense which was balanced with power and speed. Josh Hamilton batted .359 and won the American League Most Valuable Player. Vladimir Guerrero rebounded to bat an even .300, and Elvis Andrus created chaos on the basepaths.
Texas won the American League West by a comfortable margin last season. In fact, after having been perennial losers for nearly a decade, they made it look too easy. After winning the West, the Rangers knocked off the Tampa Bay Rays in the final game of a five-game series. Texas then shook its bad history with New York by beating the Yankees in six games (of a best-of-seven series). The Rangers’ season ended abruptly with a loss to the San Francisco Giants who were led by a red-hot pitching staff and an offense which caught fire, relatively speaking.
This Friday night, the Rangers will begin their quest for redemption of last season’s World Series loss. At the time of publication, the Rangers held home-field advantage over the incredibly hot Detroit Tigers. Texas’ opponent remains to be determined since the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays were tied in the wild card race at the time of publication. If the Rays make the playoffs, it will go down in history as one of the most unlikely comebacks in baseball history.
Regardless of Texas’ opponent, I can guarantee this: The Ballpark in Arlington will be packed for the first round of the playoffs. Even if the fans don’t receive free t-shirts.