We said goodbye to an old friend last weekend: The Ballpark in Arlington, aka The Temple. I have never referred to it by any of its corporate names; I will call the new home of the Texas Rangers (unnecessary as it is) by its paid-for name. I will not call the new place "The Ballpark." I've kept a list of Major League ballparks over the years; The Ballpark is continually at or near the top.
The Rangers decided they could no longer play at The Ballpark, built only in 1994, because a field with a retractable roof would be more comfortable for fans. There is no doubt this is true; summer months in Dallas are brutal. But the team knew this when the current place was designed. Further, they made the decision to enclose the outfield with office spaces, ensuring there would be little air circulation in and out of the stadium. Building a new ballpark, the team argued, would be more cost effective than adding a roof onto the current structure. The City of Arlington, more than happy to fund ridiculously expensive sports arenas with public funds, picked up the tab.
The Ballpark will not be torn down; it will still host events, such as minor league level football and soccer. The new Globe Life Park is set to open for the 2020 season.
I moved to Dallas in August of 1995 to attend seminary at SMU. I grew up in the Houston area as an Astros fan. I was used to watching Major League Baseball games in the Astrodome, a terrible, but comfortable, place for baseball. I attended my first game at The Ballpark at the end of September. The Rangers were out of the playoffs, of course, and they were taking on the Seattle Mariners. It was September 28 1995, to be exact. I showed up with $17 in cash, and purchased a great ticket for $16. I remember Ken Griffey Jr slammed a monstrous home run to the right field home run porch. For the next twenty years, I do not believe I saw a homer hit further.
When I was in seminary, Christy and Erin Bunch teamed up to buy my buddy Mark and I a twenty-game package (maybe it was 12 games). This was before we had kids, but there was a family near us who had the same deal; I taught their kids how to keep score. When we graduated from SMU, Christy and I served in England for a year. Upon our return to the USA, which was July 4th, 2000, we went straight to the Ballpark for a game. I don't know how many Fourth of July games + fireworks I saw there; at least half of them. Including this year with the whole family, our last Rangers game there.
I toured the Ballpark many times with different church groups over the years; I led other large groups to ballgames there. I had a system of where to park, the best gate to enter to easily access the elevator, and the best hot dog vendors-- with the grilled onions. I have sweated out there in the heat, and nearly froze one night in April; I had to buy a sweatshirt from the clubhouse. I have so many memories there, including this last one from a non-baseball event:
I've been a Billy Joel fan for more than thirty years. I saw him 20+ years ago, then we celebrated Linus' birthday last Saturday night. It was a great way to say goodbye, not to Hollywood, but the Ballpark.
Thanks for the memories, you beautiful structure.