A Win, a Place, and a Show

Saturday found us at the Texas Rangers final night game at Globe Life Park. Next year, the team will begin playing at its new $1.1 billion stadium next door. Globe Life Field will seat almost 10,000 fewer fans, but they’ll be able to watch games in air-conditioned comfort (and without the two-inning wait at most concession lines).

On July 4, 2001, we went on our first date to what was then called The Ballpark in Arlington to watch the Rangers take on the Seattle Mariners. It was Alex Rodriguez’s first season as a Ranger, after playing six years with the Mariners. “A-Rod” scored the first run against his former team, thanks to a double by Rafael Palmeiro. Memorably, Mike Lamb and Palmeiro both hit home runs in that game. The Rangers went on to defeat the Mariners 6-3, and a festive fireworks display ensued.

Fast-forward 18 years to Saturday night. This time, the Rangers faced the New York Yankees. A-Rod had retired after 10 seasons as a Yankees player, but his influence on the team could still be felt. Country music legend Charley Pride was there to sing the National Anthem and God Bless America. Memorably, Rougned Odor hit his 30th home run for the season, a grand slam. And although the Yankees scored in the first inning, the Rangers pulled ahead and never looked back. They defeated the Yankees 9-4, and a festive fireworks display ensued. It was our last date at Globe Life Park.

As a place, the ballpark has meant so much to us. We’ve managed to go to a game there every year since that first trip in 2001. The years may have changed us, but the ballpark has remained a constant presence in our lives. It seemed like it would always be there, a steady reminder of that first time we knew we would spend the rest of our lives together. It may seem overblown, but the ballpark became a metaphor for our life together: filled with joys and sorrows, dreams and disappointments, home runs and fireworks.

Like we’ve done at every game we’ve attended, we couldn’t help talking about things bigger than baseball. Seeing Charley Pride got us talking about his trailblazing music career, not unlike the baseball career of Jackie Robinson. That led us into conversation about race and struggle and resilience and endurance. It’s why the place of baseball in Arlington has such a place in our hearts–because it’s where we’ve lived and loved and learned.

For our last game, we had seats in nearly the last row, but we made the best of it. The game, at least for the Rangers, was statistically meaningless. But when the sixth inning stretched on, we didn’t mind. We wanted to hold on as long as we could.

We’re looking forward to games in the new stadium, but Globe Life Park will always be special to us. Like many other fans, we won’t miss the miserable heat or the scorching sun of the old open-air stadium. The new stadium’s retractable roof will be deployed if the temperature rises above 82 degrees or if there’s even a hint of rain. Maybe the mechanical roof will increase stadium revenue from those who would otherwise not want to sit in the heat of a hot Texas summer. Maybe it will attract talented players, particularly starting pitchers who would otherwise not want to play in the oppressive heat. And when the roof is open, it will be almost like an open-air stadium.

Almost.

The difference between an open-air stadium and one with a retractable roof is like the difference between a car with a sunroof and a convertible. Both are open to the sky above, but the experience is not quite the same.

It’s interesting to note that Globe Life Park was built 25 years ago to replace the old Arlington Stadium, which had been built 30 years before that. The biggest drawback of the earlier stadium was its lack of protection from the Texas heat. Because of it, the Rangers were allowed to play most of their home games at night. Although the ballpark that replaced Arlington Stadium doubled capacity and added many amenities, it didn’t alleviate the main problem. For 15-20 nights of the year, temperatures on the field at Globe Life Park still exceed 110 degrees.

So why didn’t Globe Life Park take advantage of retractable roof technology at the time of its construction? In today’s dollars, the construction costs for Globe Life Park were a third of the new Globe Life Field. A modern mechanical roof would not have added significantly more. Call it planned obsolescence.

It’s another lesson we’ve learned from baseball. Change is inevitable, so embrace it and move on.