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ST31: Rangers beat the Mets in Arlington, 4-2

It was certainly nice being back at the Ballpark last night. My wife had to work, so I went myself out to the exhibition game. I actually had a ticket to the Saturday afternoon game, but with the major forecast of rain on Saturday, I decided to hit the Friday night game, as I wanted to get in on the free yearbook promotion, so I nabbed a $5 seat, and hit the park. I will have more on my thoughts about the changes in the Ballpark that I noticed after my game report…
Well, the biggest question mark heading into the season is our pitching. Our starting pitching tonight was just “OK”. Burba went three innings, allowing two earned runs. One was on an RBI single by Mike Piazza in the first. A first inning where Burba looked just “eh”. Allowed a double to the first batter, then an RBI a few batters later. He also gave up a home run ball in the second. However, that was the extent of the offense against is. The Rangers used five more pitchers, although, I have to say, Colby Lewis was scintillating. He pitched two perfect innings, using a total of 15 pitches to do it. The kid looked real REAL good. It’s tempting to keep him, but I think we should keep him in AAA so he can get regular work instead of the bullpen here. Rocker closed out, and got a much better reception than I thought he would. When he came (running) in from the bullpen, he got an ovation – some people standing. Was nice to see that, I really didn’t know what he’d get. The test of course will be what happens when there is a full park. Anyway, he was very Wettelandesque in his relief, allowing the bases to get loaded, before he ended up striking out the side to get the save. Offensively, our runs were all provided by the longball. Juan got on with a single in the second, and Raffy hit a double play ball to Mo Vaughn, who very nicely sailed the ball into left field, allowing everyone to be safe. Pudge comes up next and jacks a ball over the left field fence, giving us a 3-2 lead we never gave up. Raffy added a solo HR a few innings later, and that was it!
Other notes – Hank Blalock, while not making any noise offensively, had a couple of good plays, including one that started a rundown that kept the Mets from scoring in the second. He lookd good, and Mike Lamb, who came in the game later and played first had a really nice play at second. In all fairness, Robbie Alomar showed why he’s an awesome second baseman too, making a spectacular play on a sharp grounder by Pudge in the fourth.
As for the Ballpark itself..
First off, when they said parking was different, they weren’t kidding. The best public parking places have gone up from $8 to $12. I told the guy taking my money that he had better bring earplugs the first few weeks of the season, and he kind of rolled his eyes. I haven’t checked out all the parking options, but I’m told the parking out “in space” (which is what I call the area way out by Rt. 30) will still be $8 (and is the frickin hardest to get out of after the game). Also, their cooler policy (well, MLB’s policy) instituted after September 11th is still in place. In fact, I think it’s going to stay that way, because they now have signs erected at the parking entrances showing what you cannot bring into the park.
A walk around the ballpark showed some new advertising as usual – the old giant Target logo behind the visitor’s bullpen is no longer there. It was replaced with something else – I can’t recall what it is at the moment, but the big Target “target” is gone. One of the billboards to the left of the scoreboard in dead center is empty at the moment (It used to hold a baseball with a band-aid on it, and originally was a Fina board when the Ballpark opened). The Diamond Club restaurant appears to have been renamed the Bullpen Grill in a flyer that was handed out. The various food stands in the lower concourse all have new signs on them. Nothing spectacular, but they are a solid sign now, as opposed to the individual letters they used to have. My guess is that it’s cheaper to replace a big board sign than the individual letters, so they switched. And of course, the biggest change was the lack of Chuck Morgan. His replacement (forget his name at the moment, something Christopher) did a servicable job. He lacks the immediate distinctiveness of Chuck, but that’s really not a knock on Christopher – Chuck Morgan is the only voice this ballpark has ever known (if I’m not mistaken, Chuck NEVER missed a game in all his years here), and many of the in game things were Chuck’s choice and style. Several times during announcements, he didn’t seem to have his face in proper position with the mike, as he’d start talking, and then get MUCH LOUDER. Mr. Christopher did a serviceable job, but he did appear nervous – missing a pitching change for the Mets, didn’t have enough conviction in his voice, but I suspect all that will change over time. Dots were handed out, but there was no dot race. Also, Juan’s Star Wars music was played again, and was the only music that was played loudly at all. The volume of player music was toned down, I don’t know if that was intentional or not, or if it’s just pre-season. No real problems here, but just the simple change is what I’m noticing, I’m sure.
Anyway, it was very nice to have baseball back at the Ballpark. Again, I was supposed to go to the game on Saturday, but with major rain in the forecast, I’m not confident that game will come off. I’ll be in front of the TV Sunday night watching the ESPN telecast of the opening game, and then as I have Brinks coming to install a security system in my house on Monday afternoon, I get to hang around and watch opening day baseball all Monday. :) Can’t beat that.