ARLINGTON -- Opening Day in Major League Baseball may as well be a holiday, not because so many people seem to be able to get off work annually to fill up baseball stadiums, but because of that magical feeling that is in the air for everyone who gets to experience the event.
The Texas Rangers 2013 home opener was an event in every since of the word as parking lots opened five hours before the 1:05 p.m. first pitch for fans who had this game circled on their calendars since the schedule was released. The fact that the opponent was none other than former Rangers MVP Josh Hamilton and division rival Los Angeles Angels was icing on the cake.
The official action got under way at 10 a.m. with a pre-game concert on the north lawn featuring country artists Max Stalling and Cody Johnson. The gates to enter the ballpark also opened at 10 and a slew of fans positioned themselves down the third base line in hopes of getting an autograph from Hamilton. Hamilton, who left the Rangers via free agency to sign a five-year deal valued at $125 million, has been the subject of controversy in DFW after saying this area was "not a baseball city." While surrounded by a large group of media, the former Ranger star obliged many of the fans who held up signs, including one that read: "Josh, I am a Cowboys fan, please sign for me."
The Capital One Club, which is a remodeled version of the popular Cuervo Club behind home plate, was a popular spot before the game as fans tried out the new spot and the buffet, which is served from the time gates open through the third inning. Season-ticket holders with seats in VIP and Premium Home Plate Seats, Premium Dugout, VIP Infield, and Long-Term Suites will have game-long access to the Capital One Club.
The brand new concession area in the remodeled concourse dubbed '60 Foot Six' and located under the Capital One Club featured new items such as the Boom Stick, a two-foot-long dog can weigh nearly two pounds and costs $26 and the Beltre Buster with a pound of beef and 8 ounces of bacon. Fans also flocked to the Captain Morgan Club in the outfield. The two-leveled club was the new addition to the ballpark last season and has held its popularity for those looking for a cool spot that is not as exclusive as the new home plate club.
The legendary Chuck Morgan introduced the entire lineups for both teams and, with an over-sized American flag covering a good portion of the outfield, country music singer Jack Ingram performed the national anthem. Robbie Parker threw out the ceremonial first pitch and Rangers No. 4 starter Derek Holland -- this was Texas' fourth game since they began on the road in Houston -- took the mound. It was a gorgeous spring afternoon in the high 60s and baseball in DFW was underway.
The moment everyone was waiting for took place in the top of the second as Josh Hamilton led off the inning to vicious boos and taunting, the likes of which I had not experienced since last week when Lamar Odom returned to the American Airlines Center for the first time since being 'kindly asked' to leave the Dallas Mavericks. The last time a former Rangers player faced such disdain from the home crowd was likely when Alex Rodriguez returned as a member of the New York Yankees in May 2003 and promptly hit a home run in his first at bat. Hamilton went on to strike out in his first two times up, drawing huge cheers from the capacity crowd of 48,845. One can only imagine how loud the boos would have been had former Rangers and current Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson had been on the mound.
The Rangers would go on to defeat the Angels 3-2. to win their fifth consecutive home opener. The series continues through the weekend including a nationally televised ESPN Sunday Night game with the marquee pitching match-up scheduled to be the Rangers Yu Darvish against the Angels Jered Weaver. Texas A&M's 2012 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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