On Sunday night, I had the great privilege of being able to attend Game Four of the World Series. So many things had to fall into place for this to even be a possibility, a silly little detail like the final score was not going to dampen my enthusiasm. And it didn’t.
If you have never been to a baseball game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, you are missing a genuine treat. It is another single purpose retro styled facility, specifically designed for baseball, not unlike Oriole Park at Camden Yards or the new Busch Stadium. It opened in 1994, making it the second of the classic stadium designs.
A baseball fan won’t be able to take their eyes off the white steel archways in the centerfield area, which screams out old Yankee Stadium. The dark green right field section is a perfect homage to Tigers Stadium and their famous covered porch, the sight of some very memorable home runs. This stadium proudly shouts out that it is a Ball Park with a nod to the past and a look to the future, the latter being most noticeable in the state of the art scoreboard and video screen. Prior to the start of the game, they used that video screen to show the Cowboys/Rams game being played just across the street. It was an eerie foreshadowing of what we would see later in the evening.
The start of the baseball activities got underway to the sounds of Guns and Roses, Welcome to the Jungle, played at a thundering volume. The large crowd all rose and started waving their rally towel, which we conveniently picked up as we entered the stadium. Mine is now proudly hung upside down, in the nautical tradition meaning that they are in some sort of distress.
As for the audio system at RBiA, it is exceptional. The music is loud but very clear. The voice announcements are also clear and easily understandable. The best is during the short walkup music segments, especially those with deep base lines – Ian Kinsler’s Whole Lotta Love was a particular treat. Yet another important element of the game experience that the stadium builders got right.
The highlight of the night was the unflolding of the American Flag in center field. I had seen it on the Fox broadcasts in the previous games, but seeing it in person was so much better than imagined.
Zooey Deschanel belted out a solid version of the National Anthem. As she was finishing up the last lines, a low growling sound came from behind the left field bleachers. It intensified as a pair of Chinook helicopters gave the ballpark a courtesy fly-by.
Former President, George W. Busch, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. I understand that he is not everyone’s favorite politician, but it is important to appreciate that he is loved in Texas and was a big part of the Texas Rangers organization. Throwing politics aside for the evening, the large crowd gave Mr. Bush a loud ovation as he threw the ball to Nolan Ryan, guest catcher for the festivities.
The wind was not blowing anywhere near as hard as the night before, and it was evident during batting practice where not many hits made you say “ooooooh”. We suspected it would be a low scoring game, but you never know. Finally, the home plate umpire yelled, “Play Ball” and the game got under way.
We didn’t know it at the time, but Rafael Furcal’s first at bat was really a microcosm of the entire game. He would rip the ball hard down the third base line, but Adrian Beltre was able to stretch far enough to catch the ball.
The turning point in the game came in the fifth inning. Lance Berkman had just gotten the second Cardinals hit when David Freese came up to the plate. A hit here, especially one in the gap, might have shaken the confidence of Rangers starter, Derek Holland. Holland got Freese to harmlessly ground out to Ian Kinsler, who started the rally killing double play. From that point on, the Cardinals bats didn’t seem to have much life. While it was very hard to judge the strike zone from our location, it did seem as if a lot of Cardinals hitters were having trouble with home plate umpire, Ron Kulpa. After taking a called third strike, Lance Berkman gave Kulpa a soliloquy that would make William Shakespeare smile.
For the second night in a row, the Cardinals were the benefactors of a bad call at first base. This one happened in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Cardinals tried to turn an inning ending double play on Mitch Moreland’s ground ball, but Albert Pujols was clearly off the base when he received the throw, maybe a foot or more. I couldn’t believe it when the Cardinals left the field.
Among all of the I heart this player or that, there was one sign in the crowd made me chuckle. It said “Ron Kulpa is latin for needs new glasses”. Well done, I liked that one.
While I would have rather seen the Cardinals end up with the win, the outcome in such a game is small part of the experience. If you put all of your hopes on something in which you have no control, you risk missing out on all of the little things, like the Whiffle Ball home run derby, the little girl who stole 3rd base in 30 seconds, and got to keep it. This was a very special night, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend it with some friends.