Here we are again, folks. It’s the first game of the 11th season of Rangers baseball since I started this site in December of 1998. There was a lot to look forward to. The new scoreboards, Dubya throwing out the first pitch, a feeling that this season might be the best since 2004, plus just the usual opening day “good feeling” you get by attending Game 1/162.
So I take off from Garland at 9AM, hit Starbucks for a big cup of coffee, since it’s a bit on the nippy side. Throw on the talk show on the XM 24/7 talk channel for the ride out, which was surprisingly easy, but given the time I left, I’m not surprised at the lack of traffic, even when I got to Arlington. On the way out to the park, I was so overwhelmed as I thought about how good my life is in general, I had to turn off the radio and give thanks to God for the day, my life, and the beauty I saw on the drive out (there’s some nice side views of things I think). Anyway, when I got to the park I was right next to the stadium, came in, and was surprised at how windy and cold it was. It was fine if you were in the sun, but in the shade, wow it felt cold. I had a walk around the park, picked up a program, and checked out various things. Looked at the new scoreboards at point blank range, watched some batting practice, had a lot of fun just watching people and all that. One thing I thought was funny, although I don’t really know why was in the new scoreboards. Two games were postponed before I got there, and both of those games were shown on the new scoreboard with two stormclouds. When I saw that, I actually laughed, I enjoyed that.
I got to my seat, and phoned in to home to see what was going on there. That phone call wasn’t really meant for here, but one part was so cool, I had to relay it. My wife told me that about 20 minutes or so after I had left my three year old came running to Mommy with a really sad look on her face, saying “MOMMY! DADDY FORGOT HIS TICKET!” She had Rangers tickets in her hand, but what she found was two of the tickets we had for the exhibition game on Saturday. I had taken them out of my wallet and put ’em on the counter when I put the ticket for today’s game in my wallet. It was a real heart melter when my wife told me how upset my kid was that I forgot my ticket. I considered it further evidence of God’s love for me. I see it in so many places these days.
After we had the usual awesome opening ceremonies. They were enhanced with the new video boards, showing some cool enhancements to the national anthem. We had the huge flag, balloons, the B-1 bomber flyover, player announcements, and to top it off, George W. Bush. No matter what you think of the man’s politics, there’s no denying his love for baseball, and that’s quite refreshing to see. Heard him on the radio later in the game, and it was great – his command of current Rangers stuff and other baseball minutiae is quite impressive. It was all awesome, and the final flavor of all was the red uniforms. It was a spectacular opening ceremony. Loved it – another bangup job by Chuck Morgan and his crew.
Then we get to the game itself. Kevin Millwood takes on Cliff Lee. The 22 win Cy Young guy goes against the Rangers and their “Ace“. Never really felt we had a good shot to win this one, was definitely another of those “on paper” matchups. However, the pitching was backwards. Millwood pitched like the Cy Young guy. He faced the minimum through the first three innings, and just just two over the minimum through the first six. Was helped out by two good double plays. In fact, the only run the Indians got all day was in the seventh, when he seemed to be starting to run out of gas, gave up two singles, and uncorked a wild pitch, allowing the lone run to come across. But his line was quite impressive. Seven innings pitched, just five hits, one run, one walk, and five strikeouts. Tossed something like 115 pitches, and it was a nice feeling seeing that from Rangers #33. CJ Wilson & Frank Francisco both followed with perfect innings, one strikeout each. Our pitching was very crisp.
The defense was pretty darned good, too. Michael Young made a couple of hardcore third base plays – it was as if he had been playing there for a long time, he handled the hard ones quite nicely. Elvis Andrus made a really good defensive play in the game too. He had some nice range to get to the ball, that quite frankly, I don’t think Michael Young would have gotten to. And of course, it didn’t take long, after that play we got “Elvis is in the building” on the new ribbon graphics. First game. :)
That brings us to the offense. It was the major league debut of Elvis Andrus. It was the cause of some consternation with Michael Young moving to third, but on this game, it was all good. Andrus was great on defense, and he got a double in his first major league at bat. He only went 1-4, but it felt like he was better than that. Probably rose coloured opening day glasses there, but it still felt great.
The rest of our offense was pretty good too. In fact, every starting Ranger had at least one hit, except for one. Chris Davis took an ofer, but everyone else had at least one hit. In all, the Rangers had fifteen hits. Of those hits, six of them were extra base ones. We had four doubles, including two by Ian Kinlser. We also had a big three run home run by Hank Blalock, and a solo shot later on by Jarrod Saltamacchia. The power was good. Blalock’s home run was NOT a no doubter, you had to wonder, as the right fielder did keep going back, so you thought it could get caught; but it wasn’t. Ian Kinsler looked fantastic, jacking two doubles, getting two RBI’s. On several Ranger players, but particuarly noticable on Kinsler & Young, the Indians were shading their outfielders way over to the right. Kinsler’s mostly a pull hitter (not all the time, but a lot of the time), I wouldn’t have thought they would give him a wide a hole has he got in the left field corner. Our guys had the sticks going. Of the eight players with hits, just two (Byrd & Andrus) had one hit. Everyone else had two or more. It was a nice attack, and moreso that it came on Game #1 at home.
As I said, the game was freakin fantastic, it was a wonderful day (Praise God for that), and the defense and pitching were right up there with the offense. It was a heck of a day to start the season, that’s for sure! I’m not going to write the crap you read everywhere about “It’s just the first, don’t get too excited”. But it’s hard to NOT get excited after a first game being so good. I was quite glad I got this shot of the winning line of players next to the Opening Day 2009 logo. Really nice to see that :)
Oh, and Candyce, here’s the only picture I got of Josh Hamilton all day. Sorry about that. I didn’t take many game pictures at all, once the game started, I was more interested in watching it than documenting it. :)