I arrived at the ballpark around 10:40AM. I generally go by myself, so tailgating wasn’t an interest to me, although there was a lot of it around. I saw a bunch, as I parked in the Six Flags parking lot. It ended up not being too bad to park. Getting out was an adventure, but I did see lots of tailgating as I walked past it.
So I get into the park, and do my usual walk around to see what has changed. For the most part, the park itself is largely unchanged since the end of last season. One major change was the gift shop. It used to be that they had a gift shop, and then an art gallery next to it. The art gallery went away years ago, and in it’s place has been “more” gift shop, but the old gallery space was still physically there, with a few doors to let people go between the places. They finally gave up on that pretense, and knocked the walls down between them, so the whole space is one giant gift shop, with an oval checkout area in the middle. So it seems a lot larger now, even though it really isn’t.
Additionally, the old museum is not there anymore. Or at least part of it isn’t. The downstairs has been converted to a “Texas Rangers Hall of Fame”. They moved the old plaques from the other side of the stadium over here, and put together some new stuff. The problem is that I couldn’t see it, as it was blocked off for a “Private Party”. They had just put out a bit on the weekly FSSW show about that being there, and it was free for everyone to see. Then they go and block it off for the first game. Real smart. Hopefully I’ll be able to get in there and get some pictures and report on it shortly.
I also ran into an old friend. When I had season tickets, this guy was across the aisle from me, or next to me or something, so it was nice to see an old friend. We chatted a bit, and that was cool. Nice to see you Tom!
So I got to my seat about an hour and a half before the game started, and settled in to read some newspapers and Ranger reports I had brought with me. I missed Rangers batting practice unfortunately, so I got no pictures of that. While looking around I noticed there were two new places the Rangers managed to find to put advertising when it wasn’t there before. You can see ’em here. The tarp that covers the pitchers’ mound, and the manual sweepers the groundskeepers use. Oh joy. There was also minor stuff like the new Friday TV Channel having its name up here (there was a sign that said TXA 21 – CBS 11), too.
One other cool thing is that the hot dog vendors were dressed up like very old school hot dog vendors with white pants, and red and white striped shirt, and a red hat. Had a very old school feel to it.
Something else I wondered about. The fans in right field right behind the 407 sign. Who are they? They have signs there all the time, and today was no different. Had a “Welcome Vlad” sign, which was nice to see.
The pregame ceremonies got underway, and we had the usual gaggle of events. Brought out Rangers alumni. Most of them are names from the past I suspect most casual Rangers fans don’t know. Then they had the big names like Mark McLemore, Rusty Greer, et al. They also had a guy I liked, but wasn’t the most popular, Mike Munoz. They also had the player introductions, and I heard a small smattering of boos for Ron Washington. I thought there’d be more than that due to the usual fickle nature of Rangers fans in this town. Had the Canadian national anthem, and then Neil McCoy sang our National Anthem. Had the jet flyover, and then the first pitch ball was brought in by parachute by a fellow named Dana Bowman, who was a double amputee from the service, which was quite cool. The ball was delivered to Roger Staubauch who threw out the first pitch. But not before he juggled three baseballs for a little bit on the mound. Even the Rangers alumni stood on the side watching all that. It was pretty cool. Here is a thumbnail of several pictures from the ceremonies:
So the Rangers finally take the field, and the season is ready to go. Scott Feldman takes the hill, the freshly minted #1 starter for the Rangers, with a nice fat contract extension in his pocket. He got started off fine, getting Bautista & Hill quickly, but gave up a sharp liner to Adam Lind for a single, and Vernon Wells followed up with a really well struck two run home run to give the Jays the early lead. While Feldman wasn’t bad at all, he was hit hard a lot. Even most of the outs were well struck. It kind of put a damper on the feeling of the day. The crowd was pretty quiet. Adam Lind struck again in the third with a solo home run to right. That really felt deflating, especially since Feldman’s pitch count was way up at that point.
The bla wasn’t helped by the fact that the Rangers could not manage much of anything. In fact, they couldn’t manage to get anything for quite awhile. Toronto starter Shaun Marcum was really strong. He carried a no hitter into the seventh inning. His changeup was deadly, the Ranger hitters could NOT locate the thing at all. In fact, going into the seventh, the Rangers only had two base runners. One was a hit batter (he hit Vlad in the second), and then Michael Young reached on a fielding error. That was it. So when we got to the seventh, it wasn’t expected to be much of anything.
Feldman had settled down, and ended up pitching seven innings himself. Innings 4-7 were more like the Feldman we knew, and he ended up with a good line, despite being hit around a bunch in the beginning. His final line was 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, and three strikeouts. But he didn’t walk anyone, which probably helped a lot.
I got the shots above of Vlad Guerrero, because I knew he’d be a great photo op. When he misses, he screws himself into the ground, and I was right. See the above picture. :)
Anyway, we finally got to the seventh, and we finally managed to break through. Michael Young flew out to center, and then Josh Hamilton worked a walk, which was the first “offensive” base runner we had the whole game. Vlad Guerrero finally broke the no hitter with one of his patented swing at garbage and get a bloop single to right. This had two on for Nelson Cruz. Cruz golfed a ball into the Rangers bullpen for a game tying three run home run. It seemed a lot like a ball that Vlad Guerrero would hit, too. I commented to the guy sitting next to me that “we finally have a right fielder that can hit the slider down and away. Old #19 would be sitting on the bench now.”
What’s cool about the three Cruz shots above is that in the first one if you click through and look at the really large version, you can see Cruz with his arms in the air. That was cool to see.
Neftali Feliz came in (to much cheering) in the 8th, and did not pitch well at all. He only pitched 2/3 of an inning, and gave up two hits, two walks, and allowed the Blue Jays to retake the lead, 4-3. Darren Oliver came in and stopped the bleeding. Quite well. He struck out Lyle Overbay and then got John Buck to fly out. This brought us to the bottom of the ninth.
It started off quite well. Michael Young jacked a double to the right field corner, splitting the outfielders. Josh Hamilton was called out on strikes, prompting some arguing from him, which doesn’t usually happen. Vlad Guerrero jacked a single to right as well, pushing Michael Young to third. At this point, Vlad was lifted for a punch runner, David Murphy. Meanwhile the crowd is going nuts, as you can smell the victory. Nelson Cruz came up and blooped a double down the right field line. It scored Michael Young to tie the game, and moved Murphy to third. That left Cruz on second and Murphy on third with one out. The Jays intentionally walked Chris Davis to set up a force at any base. It brought up Jarrod Saltamacchia, who has an unfortunate history of not coming through in situations like this.
After working a 2-2 count, Jarrod launched a ball into the right center field corner for a single, scoring Murphy and winning the game in a walkoff. It was quite exciting, to be honest. The shot here was right after Saltamacchia hit the ball, and you can see the runners on the move.
I have to say that after so long in the game of being shut down, I didn’t feel we would win this game. Hats off to Shaun Marcum for shutting down the Rangers for so long, but I am glad we got the win on opening day. While I was there. One amusing note. It was overcast most of the time. The only time the sun came out was right around when the Rangers started scoring. :)
Great win – and with a walkoff on opening day. Hard to beat that.
As I said earlier, you can view my entire photo gallery of shots online at the following link: