Trips to the ballpark are always special in their own right. But Saturday’s trip to see the Texas Rangers play had a little extra special meaning.
It was my son’s first trip.
Zachary’s been around baseball since the day he was born. We decorated his room with a couple of baseball prints and a baseball quilt hanging on the wall. He’s got fuzzy baseball toys, and at age 2, he can recognize when I’m wearing a baseball shirt or watching the game on TV.
“Baseball!” he’ll say excitedly.
With beautiful weather Saturday, we decided it was time to take Zachary to his first game. (Technically, he’d been to a game, but he was still about six months away from his own “opening day.” That, by the way, was his sister Audree’s first baseball game on the last day of the regular season in 2010.)
As we were entering the park to see the Rangers take on the Red Sox, it hit me that the first game I ever went to, 23 years ago, featured the same two teams.
I was (am) a big fan of Nolan Ryan. I saw him pitch in the first Rangers game I attended back on July 7, 1990.
When we walked through the gate at Rangers Ballpark Saturday, we were handed big fans with Nolan Ryan’s photo on it. Cosmic, right?
I can’t recall many details about my first game, other than thinking how awesome it was that I was seeing Nolan pitch in person. In fact, I remember the Rangers giveaway cap and the souvenir baseball I bought more than the outcome of the game. A trip to the Baseball Almanac website showed me that the Rangers beat the Red Sox in that game 7-3. Nolan won his eighth game of the year, going seven innings and striking out 12 batters.
Having just turned 2 less than a month ago, I doubt Zachary will remember much, if anything, about his first game. So I thought I’d jot down some of memorable moments for him:
- Prior to the game, a highlight video was shown with the words “Baseball Town” featured prominently throughout. It’s a reference to former Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton’s comments that Arlington wasn’t a “true baseball town” – meaning fans didn’t really support the ballclub. Saturday night’s game was a sellout, by the way, and the Rangers lead the league in attendance.
- Zachary spent much of his time looking at ladies sitting a few rows behind us. I could tell by the grin on his face that he was getting lots of attention and enjoying every minute of it. Finally, he turned around sometime in the bottom of the first inning, looked down at the field, then turned to me with his eyes wide open and said, as if he had just made a grand discovery, “Baseball game!”
- It took exactly one pitch to a Rangers batter for him to see his first home run. Actually, I think my daughter was more excited, because she had said just moments earlier that she wanted to see fireworks, and her mom told her that she’d see some if Ian Kinsler hit a home run. Check.
- As it is with any game against the Red Sox, there are plenty of Boston fans scattered throughout the ballpark. We had some sitting directly in front of us and behind us. They cheered for their team but never said anything negative about the Rangers. It didn’t bother me a bit. Besides, after the bombing at the Boston Marathon a few weeks ago, all of us baseball fans can certainly respect how the team that is the face of Boston has given the town plenty to cheer about with their red-hot start to the year.
- By about the third inning, it was time for some kettle corn. The kids made use of their new baseball caps as bowls for the popcorn. Zachary seemed to have the most fun picking up a piece and pushing it against my lips until I’d open up and take a bite, no matter how much I protested. Then he’d giggle like it was the funniest thing ever.
- The temperature was a very comfortable 73 degrees at first pitch, but as the sun went down, it quickly began to drop. By the later innings, the temperature had dropped to 61 degrees and a pretty steady breeze was blowing through the upper deck where we were seated. Luckily, a very nice lady sitting beside my daughter pulled out a Rangers blanket she had received as a giveaway at Tuesday’s game and let the kids snuggle under it.
- We left the game in the seventh inning stretch with the Rangers up 3-1. The kids were getting tired, the temperature was dropping and the sellout crowd would have made leaving the game after nine innings a bit of a traffic mess. As I got on the interstate to head home, I turned on the game on the radio in time to hear Craig Gentry, who has taken over Hamilton’s outfield spot, hit a two-run home run to give the Rangers a 5-1 lead. A half-inning later, Rangers closer Joe Nathan would work a 1-2-3 ninth to finish off the four-run victory, the same margin of victory as the Rangers had in my first game.
As I glanced in the back seat, the kids were fast asleep.
I hope they’ll have plenty of good memories from their trip to the ballpark. I know I will.