Cleveland Indians vs. Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park, Arlington, TX – August 26

Of all the 12 match-ups on my August road trip, this was the one I had most anticipated as likely to be a battle of true contenders. Going into this game the visiting Cleveland Indians are leading the AL Central by 5 games over their nearest rival – the Detroit Tigers, and carry a record of 72-53. I had seen them already this season – against the Nationals in Cleveland during the July road trip with my brother, Rich, and they were an exciting team. On that particular night, they made up a 3 run deficit late in the game and won it on a walk-off win against Jonathan Papelbon and the Washington Nationals. I knew they would be bringing their “A” game to this contest.

The home team – Texas Rangers, meanwhile, have been dominating the AL West with the best record in the AL at 74-53 and they held a 6 ½ game lead over the second place Seattle Mariners. Indeed, it appeared to be a great matchup between contenders. As if it needed any more competitive juice in the mix, the other development involving these two clubs was the fact that the Rangers had successfully completed a trade just prior to the July 31st deadline which landed them All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers. A few days prior, Lucroy had vetoed a deal which would have sent him to Cleveland.

The prior evening, Texas had beaten the Indians by a score of 9-1. Our former Phillies Ace – Cole Hamels, pitched a real “gem” and folks in the stands were still talking about it when I got to my seats at the game for the 7:05 start. Cole pitched 8 shutout innings, holding the Tribe to only 2 hits while striking out 8 and improving his season record to 14-4. That’s the Cole Hamels who led the Phils to the 2008 World championship and pitched many a great game in the red and white pinstripes. They LOVE Cole in Texas – and why wouldn’t they??? The Rangers gave up some primo minor league prospects to the Phils in the trade for Cole and Jake Diekman. Time will only tell whether it was a great deal for either team (or both) but it was a necessary step for the Phils who sorely needed to rebuild with young talent; and the Rangers whose farm system was abundant with solid prospects and who needed a top-of-the-rotation arm like Cole’s got the best pitcher on the block at the trading deadline last year. Folks in Texas are concerned over whether they can re-sign Hamels after this season when his current contract expires – but from all indications, – Cole and his wife have settled into their new home and become very active in the community – just as they had done in Philadelphia. Again time will tell.

Somehow it seems strange to see "Hamels" across a blue jersey -- but they LOVE Cole in Texas.

Somehow it seems strange to see “Hamels” across a blue jersey — but they LOVE Cole in Texas.

My Southwest flight had landed at Love Field in Dallas on time and I picked up a rental car since the logistics of getting to Globe Life Park, the home of the Rangers, did not seem feasible via any other means of transportation. The stadium is in Arlington, TX about a 45 minute drive from Love Field. Additionally, since my flight home the next morning would be a very early (Oh Dark Hundred) one, a car was the most reasonable choice. I checked in to the Embassy Suites by Hilton close to the airport, rested for a bit, worked on my website posts, and then got myself set for the game.

When I checked in to the hotel, the desk clerk, noting my Phillies cap, told me that he was from originally from Pittsburgh and an ardent Pirates fan. I shared what positive impressions my brother and I had of PNC Park when we had visited there the prior month and told him we saw Gerrit Cole pitch a terrific complete game and pull off an acrobatic play in tandem with first baseman David Freese. And the desk clerk said – I remember that game, too – it was against the Mariners. He was correct! Great games like that seem somehow easy to remember in detail.

As I left the hotel for the ball park, the streets were still a bit wet from a late afternoon thunderstorm which had moved through the area a few hours before and the forecast was for “possible showers” so I had my poncho in my cargo pants pocket just in case it might be needed later in the evening. For now, it was dry and actually a bit cooler since the storm had passed through. It was certainly a more pleasant evening in the “Big D” than the prior night’s hot and muggy stillness in St. Louis.

I had not originally planned that Houston and Dallas would be pretty much the “bookends” for the start and end of my road trip (Houston actually turned out to be my second stop when I added a game in Tampa on the front end). As I modeled different scheduling alternatives however, this one gave me the best line-up of games and relatively better logistics overall. I made a mental note not to laugh if they sang “Deep in the Heart of Texas” at the 7th inning stretch, reminding myself I was again in a state where lots of folks had real guns…

Globe Life Park in Arlington TX - Home of Texas Rangers baseball

Globe Life Park in Arlington TX – Home of Texas Rangers baseball

I meandered around the stadium a bit before making my way to my seat. An usher, Fred, whose badge said he was from Grand Prairie, TX shared with me that he’d worked there for about 10 years and when I asked for advice about the stadium, he highlighted that I should try to walk through the Rangers Hall of Fame exhibit in the center field section of the Main Concourse and also directed me to the Team Store where I could get my MLB Passport stamped. I did a full circuit of the stadium and noted it was one of the largest of the parks I have visited. Then again, this is Texas… where everything seems a bit bigger.

As I walked the unusually wide concourse it seemed more like a State Fair than a Ball Park — complete with spinning wheel games and giveaways.  I’d received a rally-towel when I’d entered the gate (promoting an upcoming Walk for Alzheimer’s Awareness) but it seemed with every gate entrance I passed, another perky young lady from the Stadium staff was out to give me another set of rally towels. Maybe they thought I needed multiple reminders least I might forget the event…?

When I finally tallied them up, I had 7 rally towels. Little did I know that on this night, Rangers fans would do relatively little waving of towels and there were no major rallies to speak of. I took a photo with the bronze statue paying tribute to the great Nolan Ryan but my effort to enter the Rangers Hall of Fame were stopped short by a large sign which indicated that the room was closed due to a private function that evening. Bummer…

Nolan Ryan - one of the greatest pitchers of all time tips his cap to the Texas fans

Nolan Ryan – one of the greatest pitchers of all time tips his cap to the Texas fans

Several great players have worn the red, white and blues which Texas alternates in their home jersey motif. In addition to Nolan Ryan, Ferguson Jenkins, Charlie Hough and Buddy Bell were prominent Rangers players in their days on the diamond. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira also spent time playing for Texas before cashing in on big contracts with the NY Yankees.

The Rangers have fielded some very competitive teams in recent years, including 2010 when they went to the World Series led by Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler as well as a pitching staff which included C.J. Wilson and former Phil Cliff Lee. Unfortunately, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Rangers and won the Championship in 6 games thanks to some timely hitting and incredible pitching. The Rangers returned to the World Series in 2011 but fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in a tight 7 game series which saw them initially lead 3 games to 2. However, St Louis won game 6 in extra innings and took game 7 in a nail-biter which left Texas fans feeling snake-bit for the second consecutive year. Close but no cigar…

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This is sure one big ball park!!!

This is sure one big ball park!!!

After my loop around the Main concourse, I spotted an escalator and decided to take a ride up to the upper level so I could view the panorama while there was still plenty of sunlight to be had. The view from the top included the nearby amusement park – Six Flags over Texas complete with several twisty roller coasters and rides of every sort. On another side of the stadium, one could see AT&T Stadium – home of the Dallas Cowgirls — I mean Cowboys… My true Eagles fan nature kicked into gear and I hoped I wouldn’t have to sit next to anyone wearing Blue and White Cowboys gear. I was grateful that Globe Life Park was upwind of the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and all I could smell was the fresh scent of recent rain in the evening air. What a relief!!!

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View of neighboring Six Flags over Texas amusement park and AT&T Stadium- home of the Dallas Cowgirls

View of neighboring Six Flags over Texas amusement park and AT&T Stadium- home of the Dallas Cowgirls

I also decided to check out the food choices around the stadium before taking my seat. I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the selections in one concession called Texas sized 24 in the food court area close to home plate. This truly had gargantuan-sized offerings on the menu – most of which were between 3,000 and 4,000 Calories per order. And all had a lot of MEAT. The “Beltre Buster Burger” (named for Texas slugger Adrian Beltre) weighs in with 3,700 calories and another menu choice called “The Broomstick” is a two-foot long roll overstuffed with beef brisket BBQ. I actually saw one rather large gentleman carry one of these back to his seat in the section next to mine. It is packaged “to go” in what looks like a very long thinner version of a pizza box, open on the top with two sets of strong handles. I think the consumer got it in the 2nd inning and was still working it late into the game, so much so, that he couldn’t arise from his seat when the 7th inning stretch came along. Perhaps he could no longer pry himself out of his seat given the additional calories which by then had settled into his hips and hind quarters from all that beef and along with the jalapeno and cheese toppings on that huge loaf of bread. I only wondered if he would need to be helped out of the stadium as the cleaners made their way through the stands after the game – or whether he’s used his rally towel to wave surrender before eating the whole thing. I just don’t know.

Texas-sized food ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 calories per serving. Whoah... now that's a lot of beef...

Texas-sized food ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 calories per serving. Whoa… now that’s a lot of beef…

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Since it was my last night of ball park food (at least for a while…) I decided to go with the usher’s recommendation of the more modest-sized BBQ Brisket sandwich. While I felt like a piker next to those who bellied up to the counter and ordered the broomstick, the Beltre Buster Burger or even the more modest 18 inch “Kaboom Kabob”- it looked like more than enough for me. Thankfully, I also didn’t have the same huge bellies as some of these more voracious eaters!!!

As was the case with the game I’d attended a week prior in Seattle at Safeco Field, this night at Globe Life Park was “Star Wars Night” complete with post-game fireworks. While I saw far fewer fans decked out as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Jedi Masters or Chewbacca, the Rangers Scoreboard artists did a great job of photo-shopping Star Wars themes to depict both Rangers and Indians players.

Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians players on Star Wars Night at Globe Life Stadium

Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians players on Star Wars Night at Globe Life Stadium

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Cleveland sent Corey Kluber with a record of 13-8 to the mound against the Rangers Martin Perez (8-9). As with the games I had seen each of the prior two nights, the home town crowd was taken out of the game relatively early when the visitors jumped out on top by scoring 1 run in the top of the 3rd off a Jason Kipnis double, and 2 more in the top of the 4th when former Ranger, Mike Napoli and Brandon Guyer scored on a double by Abraham Almonte.  The Tribe added 3 more in the 6th inning by stringing together three singles, a hit batsman and a double. It looked like Texas might rally when Adrian Beltre crushed a solo HR to LF (Number 436 in his outstanding career) but they could not build on this momentum. The bats and the fans were pretty quiet thereafter. After such a great game the prior evening by Cole Hamels, Texas starting pitcher, Martin Perez just could not hold the Indians at bay, while Corey Kluber for the Indians allowed only 5 hits and 1 run over 6 solid innings while striking out 7 Rangers.  This night belonged to the Tribe.

Action in the game between Cleveland and Texas

Action in the game between Cleveland and Texas

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There were quite a few Indians fans in the crowd and one set of the Cleveland faithful who were sitting a few rows below mine (in Section 13 Row 12) made a little ritual as they went up the aisle by calling out to another set of Indians fans in a higher Row (probably Row 18 or so) saying O -H which brought the retort I-O.

Probably the best part of the night for me came when I struck up a conversation with the Rangers fans who were sitting in front of me. This was occasioned when Mark – sitting directly in front of me – caught a foul ball. I was within inches of grabbing it but Mark clearly had better position on it, and his sure-handed catch made me think this was not his first time catching a baseball… Upon getting the ball, his son, Sam took a photo of the souvenir and then Mark quickly found a little kid – about 2 or 3 years old who was seated with his Mom and Dad a few seats farther down my row – and handed the ball to the Dad for the youngster who smiled and later said “thanks Mister”. Another great demonstration of making a kid’s day with a souvenir baseball reminiscent of my experience in Milwaukee several days before.

The littel guy at the end of my row to the right is the youngster who took home a souvenier baseball that night courtesy of Mark.

The littel guy at the end of the row to my right is the youngster who took home a souvenier baseball that night courtesy of Mark.

I leaned over to Mark afterwards and said “Good job, that was cool giving the ball to the kid” Mark and I began talking as he saw my Phillies cap and displayed natural curiosity about my presence at the Indians vs. Rangers game. We talked about my trip and baseball in general and he shared with me that he worked for a company in the medical supply business and that they were headquartered just outside of Philly in nearby King of Prussia. A few innings later when fans seated next to Mark and his 15-year old son, Sam, decided to make an early exit, I moved down so that Mark and Sam would not have to keep turning around as we conversed. I would have felt bad if I were distracting them from a great Rangers game but by this point, the Indians were cruising.

Mark on the right and his son Sam on the left - great baseball fans... Thankfully, we did not discuss Dallas football

Mark on the right and his son Sam on the left – great baseball fans… Thankfully, we did not discuss Dallas football

I provided my contact info and forwarded a copy of a selfie which Sam snapped of the 3 of us to Mark and hope that he will contact me as his work travels bring him to Philly. He said he had never visited the City of Brotherly Love and asked for some suggestions which I rapidly recommended – from the historical sights to the many museums to the best places for cheese steaks and the not to miss jaunt up the Art Museum steps to have a photo with the Rocky Balboa statue. I felt like I had done my best “Philadelphia Visitor’s Bureau” representation and invited him to call me if he had any questions or needed any further info. I also suggested if he got to Philly during a home stand to check out our own Citizen’s Bank Park. While I admit I am biased, I genuinely still believe it is in the top 5 of the ball park venues I have seen.

I also enjoyed talking with Sam, a super-polite young man who is a high school sophomore at a private school in the Dallas area. I could not believe how tall he was when he stood up. He’s already at 15 about 6’ 3” or 6’4” and probably not done growing yet. Sam told me he pitches and plays both corner infield and both corner outfield positions. He’s hoping to focus more on pitching moving forward and this past summer he attended a camp for pitchers at Texas A& M. Someday I hope to see Sam making a start in the College World Series and maybe I’ll be able to say… “I knew that kid when….”

Again, as with several of my other stadium experiences, meeting and talking baseball with Mark and Sam was a highlight of this stop. I was careful to steer clear of any discussion of football as I did not want to discover that they were die-hard Cowboys fans… It may have been a conversation-killer from that point on.

I noted some similarities and differences between the Rangers stadium and their neighbors to the south in Houston. While the Astros play under a dome, and the current Rangers park is open-aired, they do have similar foul poles. These may be the only foul poles in the major leagues which are specifically sponsored and in both instances by Chick-Fil-A.

The official Chick-Fil-A foul pole in Left field

The official Chick-Fil-A foul pole in Left field at Globe Life Park

The similarly sponsored Chick-Fil-A foul poles in left and right field at Minute Maid Park in Houston

The similarly sponsored Chick-Fil-A foul poles in left and right field at Minute Maid Park in Houston

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Both Ball Parks also play the unofficial anthem of “Deep in the Heart of Texas” but in Arlington they do so between the top and bottom of the 4th inning vs. as a sequel to “Take Me out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch. In Houston it is belted out like more like an edgy manifesto (which may be what made me irreverently laugh there) while in the Big D it’s much more casual – almost the way folks in the Delaware Valley or the Jersey Shore would sing Al Albert’s tune: “On the Way to Cape May”.

After the 7th inning stretch, they do have their own theme song — a toe-tapping rendition of “Cotton-Eyed Joe” to which some fans actually get up and do a two-step along with the music.

I also certainly found the fans friendlier in Arlington– and especially appreciated the chance to talk with Mark and Sam. By the time the game finished the Indians had won by a score of 12-1 and many of the Texas fans had already headed for the exits – except those who still remained for what was advertised as a spectacular fireworks display.

Since my flight was going to be so early the following morning, I decided to forego the fireworks and head on back to the hotel.

Next stop: Back to Sea Isle

Forthcoming posts:         The Best of Southwest Airlines Entertainment

Lessons learned for other “Ball Park Chasers”

And there’s more baseball to come:

Upcoming games in September:

  • Coors Field in Denver,
  • Camden Yards in Baltimore,
  • Fenway Park in Boston, and
  • Stadium #30 on my list – Yankee Stadium in NY (on 9-11)

Stay tuned and keep watching for the posts