Arlington, Texas Sunday September 14th 2003

Texas Ranger Official Program

Checking out of our motel Sunday morning, we still had a two hour plus drive to Arlington. We were not in a particular hurry, since the game between the hometown Texas Rangers and the visiting Oakland A’s had been “flexed” from early afternoon to early evening to accommodate ESPN’s Sunday Night game. Instead of a 215 pm CDT start, the first pitch would be thrown at 710 pm.

1. Heading to Arlington

With time to spare, we took our time getting into the Dallas metro area, finding lunch before deciding how we wanted to proceed. Since we were staying in the area overnight (flying out of Dallas the next morning), we checked into our hotel before heading out in the direction of the stadium. We arrived well ahead of the first pitch, and secured parking just outside of the Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers.

A demonstration was underway just outside the ballpark as we arrived. Based on the signage carried by the demonstrators, it appeared to be tied to gay rights. Being from the Northeast, I assumed that the demonstration was a pro gay rights rally. Almost immediately, I was proven wrong, as it was clear this was an anti gay rights assembly. This should not have surprised me, given the section of the country. To my great surprise, the demonstration was far from peaceful, as homophobic slurs were flying at what I considered an alarming rate.

Being from New Jersey, it took all of my restraint NOT to respond to the vitriol present at that rally, and there were several verbal altercations between demonstrators and passersby. Wanting to avoid a possibly ugly interaction, we left the area in search of a quieter location to wait for the gates to open at the stadium.

The Ballpark in Arlington. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

We stumbled upon the Legends of the Game Baseball Museum, located at the ballpark. Inside the museum, we found displays complete with bats, jerseys, and trophies belonging to baseball greats. There are exhibits on Texas Rangers history, the Negro Leagues and the Texas League, and the museum has facilities for students of the game to conduct research. While not as inclusive as the National Baseball Hall of Fame (nestled in Cooperstown, NY) or the Negro League Baseball Museum (located in Kansas City, MO), the museum was an enjoyable way to pass some time and is recommended if you attend a Rangers home game.


2. The Ballpark in Arlington

Composite image of the Ballpark in Arlington. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Fortunately for me, high clouds filtered the still strong mid September sun in Arlington, mercifully keeping temperatures in the 80s leading up to game time. The Ballpark in Arlington is an open air stadium, which was a controversial decision when the plans for the ballpark were announced. It is not unusual for temperatures to hover near 100 degrees F during summer afternoons and evenings, potentially putting the health of players and fans alike at stake. Because of the heat, most Rangers home games were played in the evening to avoid the worst of the conditions.

Cooler temperatures made exploring the park more enjoyable, at least for me. The Ballpark in Arlington was bigger than I expected, complete with three decks encompassing almost all of the entire playing field. With a capacity of greater than 48,000, it was one of the biggest “new” MLB ballparks. From our first look inside the ballpark, it was clear that a fair amount of planning was done to create the stadium’s atmosphere.

In a nod to the past, home plate, the foul poles and the bleachers were transplanted from Arlington Stadium, the home of the Texas Rangers from 1972 through 1993. The roof over the right field porch was reminiscent of Tiger Stadium, the former home of the Tigers. Finally, the white steel facade in the outfield was based on the facade of the old Yankee Stadium. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the park was the office suites in centerfield, beyond the grassy noll that served as the batter’s eye. All of the above resulted in a large ballpark, much larger than I had expected.

A view of left and center field from near home plate. Note the location of the visitors bullpen, just to the right of the Southwest Airlines sign in left field. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

While touring the ballpark, we happened upon the visitor’s bullpen in left field, which was enclosed under the lower level concourse. A’s pitcher Barry Zito was warming up in the bullpen before the game, getting in his between start throwing. Because of the closed nature of the bullpen, Zito, a left hander who’s game was predicated on control and pitch placement (rather than velocity), was seemingly throwing very hard during his warmup (due to the echo).

As we were watching Zito throw, a young fan walked up and said “Hey Barry, you are throwing really hard”. Normally, players ignore fan comments, even during warmups, as they are concentrating on getting ready for competition. However, Zito stopped throwing, looked up at the young fan and said “Ah, don’t let the sound fool you”. With that one sentence, Zito showed me that he was respectful of fans, and that he was fully aware that he was indeed not a hard thrower.

The view from our seats. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Following our tour, we headed for the concession stands to get a baseball dinner. With hots dogs, pretzels and drinks in hand, we headed toward our seats. Despite a strong starting lineup, the Rangers were mired in last place in the AL West. With the home team limping toward the end of a disappointing season, there were plenty of good seats available for the game. We were fortunate enough to score seats in the lower level, just to the third base side of home plate.

Starting for the visiting Oakland A’s was right hander Justin Duchscherer. Not one of the five man Oakland rotation, Duchscherer was making a spot start, just his third of the season. On the mound for the Rangers was left hander Tony Mounce, the fifth starter in the Texas rotation. Given the relative weakness of the starting pitching, we expected the strong lineups for both teams put on a hitting display. We didn’t have to wait long for the offensive fireworks to begin, as the teams combined for seven runs in the first two innings.

A ticket from the game. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

After this outburst however, both offense were quieted into the middle innings. While Tony Mounce lasted six innings for the Rangers, the A’s starter (Duchscherer) didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, leaving the game in the hands of the A’s bullpen. As evening faded into night at the Ballpark in Arlington, conditions became a bit cooler. Scoring slowed the pace of the game, leaving us some time to get a sense of the environment within the ballpark.

Nighttime view of the Ballpark in Arlington. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Not surprisingly, a disappointing season for the Rangers resulted in a sparse crowd, which seemed even smaller than the announced attendance 17,000. So few people in the park made the ballpark appear even larger, robbing the place of any charm or intimacy. A collage of pieces from other parks gave the Ballpark at Arlington an almost forced feel, further diluting any sense of identity. To be fair, the ballpark DID provide a pleasant environment in which to watch a game, but I didn’t get the same feel I did at other ballparks in our travels.

Following Alex Rodriquez’s 43th home run in the bottom of the fifth, the hometown Rangers took a 5-3 lead. In the top of the seventh, the A’s broke the game open with three runs, and a trio of A’s reliever closed the door on the potent Texas office to seal a 6-5 win for the A’s. We filed out of the park with the rest of the remaining crowd, taking what would be our last look at the Ballpark in Arlington. Even though we had a good time seeing a ballgame here, there was not enough to bring us back any time soon.

The A’s celebrating after their 6-5 victory over the Rangers. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)
My scorecard from the game

2017 Oakland-Alameda California

While planning a trip to Yosemite National Park, we decided to slip in a visit to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home of the Oakland A’s. Having visited every other active MLB ballpark, we dragged our feet visiting this stadium. In the past, we joked that the only way we’d see that stadium is if we were in central California for some other reason. Well, it seems that time had arrived, and we acquiesced to a visit to the see Oakland A’s at home.

Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

1. New Jersey to California

We caught a flight from Newark/Liberty Airport to San Francisco International Airport on the morning of Saturday, September 10th. Choosing to visit in September was a conscious decision, as that month generally provides the best weather in the Bay Area during baseball season. Not having flown cross country in about a decade, I forgot how little I enjoy flying. Because I was not careful choosing our seats, we were cramped in less than desirable seats in economy for the six hour flight.

We arrived in the late afternoon of that sunny and very warm day. Weary from the travel and a busy schedule before the trip, we caught an early dinner, then settled into our hotel in Oakland.

2. Alameda/Oakland, Sunday September 11, 2017

With some time before the 100 pm game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, we decided to head to Alameda in search of the “nuclear wessels”. To our disappointment, the nuclear vessels were nowhere to be found. However, we did find the USS Hornet.

The USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum in Alameda, CA. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The USS Hornet, commissioned in World War II, saw limited action in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and recovered the astronauts from Apollo 11 and 12 after splashdown. Decommissioned in 1970, it became a floating museum, moored in Alameda since 1998. Though we arrived just before it opened, the day was already warm. Upon boarding the ship we wandered about, waiting for our guided tour to begin. The all-volunteer staff was both enthusiastic and very knowledgeable, clearly passionate about their ship.

Deck of the USS Hornet. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

During the briefing before the tour, we were reminded that the ship was constructed for use by young men in good physical shape. Tight spaces and sharp turns within the ship made navigation tough for “normal people” (translation: I wasn’t going to these places aboard the USS Hornet). Following the briefing, the tour began. We walked along the museum section of the ship, where we saw types of planes that called the Hornet home during its mission.

Planes on the hangar deck of the USS Hornet. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

When the tour led us to the interior of the ship, I waited as my brother went to visit the battle bridge. Though it had been been renovated several times during its service, the battle bridge was depicted as the one used during its limited service in Vietnam. Following the tour, we were free to walk about the hangar deck and the main deck of the ship.

The battle bridge of the USS Hornet. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Among the aircraft on display on the USS Hornet, my favorite were the F-14s on the main flight deck. The song “Danger Zone” echoed through my head as I examined the pride of the Navy’s planes, imagining what it might be like to pilot one. Before leaving the Hornet, we went astern to get a better view of the San Francisco skyline. This would be as close to the City by the Bay as we would get during this trip.

San Francisco from the USS Hornet, through the haze of the late morning on a very warm day. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

3. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland CA. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The USS Hornet was about 15 minutes from the stadium, and along the way we saw Willie Stargell Avenue. Arriving about 90 minutes before the game, we had ample time to tour the stadium, inside and out. From the outside, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum resembled many of the multi-purpose stadiums from that era. In fact, it looked aged, likely many years from its best days.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home of MLB and NFL champions. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Walking around the concourse of the stadium, the early afternoon shifted from very warm to hot! Temperatures were in the lower 90s F (33 degrees Celsius), though thankfully the sun splashed day was not humid. After touring the stadium, we ducked into the inner concourse to get something to eat and drink before finding our seats.

While standing in line, someone noticed that my brother wearing his Hartford Yard Goats t-shirt (obtained earlier this summer). It was unusual that someone here would know the team, since had they recently moved to Hartford. However, their new home, Dunkin Donuts Park, was not available in 2016, due to ongoing political issues. This fan mentioned he wanted to visit then, but it didn’t open on time.

Breast Cancer Awareness Day in the Coliseum. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Finding our seats, we discovered we were in full sunshine. When we purchased the tickets, I didn’t believe that the mid September sun in Oakland would be an issue. Undaunted, we settled in for the game. The pregame ceremony were tied into Breast Cancer Awareness Day, and the ceremony was emotional, ending with the release of doves.

Taking in the ballpark before the first pitch, I realized that my preconceived notion of the Coliseum may have been wrong. While it is indeed a multi-purpose stadium, it was not the rundown facility I had expected. Granted, we did not experience the plumbing issues that grabbed national headlines, but I felt as though the poor reputation the Coliseum has may be unfounded.

The view from our seats at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Despite the fact that this was important game for both teams (since the A’s were only three games back of the AL West leading Houston Astros), there were many empty seats at the game. It made me wonder if the heat was a contributing factor in the low attendance, or if baseball was not as popular in Oakland as it had been in the past.

Starting for the Houston Astros was left hander Dallas Keuchel, two years after his Cy Young award winning season. However, he didn’t bring his best stuff out of the bullpen, allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings with four walks.

Dallas Keuchel delivering a pitch during the second inning at the Coliseum. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

In contrast, A’s starter Kendall Graveman pitched a gem, allowing one run in six innings. Supporting the great start, the A’s scored 11 runs in the fourth through eight innings. With the A’s putting the game away in commanding fashion, I turned my attention back to the stadium. Though aging and need of maintenance, the ballpark holds special memories for both A’s and Raiders fans. We’ve seen stadiums in worse shape, especially at the end of their lives. The Coliseum was a fine place to see a ballgame, especially under the cloudless sky.

The A’s slant on the race many teams run during the seventh inning stretch, featuring Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Rickey Henderson. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Following the game, I took one more look at the place. Even though it’s true I wouldn’t have traveled to California simply to see the Coliseum, I’m happy that I visited on this sunny, hot afternoon. It helped me disperse the idea that the stadium was simply a dump. Will we visit again?? It is unlikely, but I did enjoy the afternoon watching a game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.