For baseball fans the postseason is always exciting. While the Texas Rangers won their way to the World Series last season, beginning a tradition of postseason appearances, the first game of the playoffs last Friday felt as exciting as the first home playoff game last season.
Despite the excitement among Dallas/Fort Worth residents, particularly those who witnessed the Rangers’ run last year, ticket prices were remarkably low due to the scheduled 4:07 p.m. start time. On the morning of Friday’s Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Rays, over 5,000 tickets were available on StubHub. Many tickets ended up being sold for well under face value. A Gameday Tickets representative stated that the game was a “bomb” as far as ticket resale was concerned. Game 1 quickly turned into a bomb for Rangers fans as well when the Texas Rangers trailed early and ended up losing 9-0 to the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays.
The day’s tailgating preparation began early with a 9 a.m. trip to the grocery store. After classes and tests, Daniel Box, Liz ‘Stevie’ Stephens and I headed west to the Elysian Fields, a.k.a. the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. We joined with fellow UDers Andrew Laux, Christopher West and Madison Milliken. Having significant tailgating experience, we trusted in our ability to set up a tailgate, grill and walk to the ballpark in less than an hour. After a meal of cheeseburgers, chips and guacamole, we headed to the mammoth ballpark which the Texas Rangers call home.
The most emotional part of the game did not come on a big play or hit (the Rangers managed only two hits), but rather on the ceremonial first pitch of the game. Six-year old Cooper Stone threw the first pitch to Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton who squatted in front of the plate in the infield grass. The moment was incredibly powerful because Cooper’s dad, Shannon Stone, passed away after attempting to catch a ball tossed to him from Hamilton.
After the Rays posted threes in the second and third innings on Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, the crowd at the ballpark was disappointingly quiet. The nice afternoon weather and the Rangers dearth of offense apparently created the perfect potion to put Rangers fans asleep. Irrational fans in the stands booed Wilson’s poor showing without any regard for his stellar effort the last two seasons. It was not a good day at the ballpark, and the stands were nearly halfway empty when the Rangers went down quickly in the bottom of the ninth. The Rays prevailed 9-0 on a day when Hamilton was the only Ranger to reach base on a hit.
In an attempt to outlast traffic and shake off our disappointment, we tailgated after the game in the cool night air. After enjoying burgers and bratwurst, several of us joined a game of wiffleball in the nearby parking lot. Those playing ranged in age from the mid-20s to their 40s. It was exhilarating to once again experience the pressure and joy of being at the plate. Hitting a long “home run” and making a great play in the field was the best way to forget the debacle which had occurred at the ballpark hours before.
After Saturday’s thrilling 8-6 comeback victory, the Rangers head to Tampa Bay for two games. If the series continues in the course it has taken so far, there is a goodpossibility of a Game 5 at the Ballpark in Arlington later this week. Whether the Rangers win or lose, I sure hope to play the timeless American game the way it used to be played: in fields, in streets, in parking lots with young and old, male and female, friend and stranger.