It was an Opening Day like no other. The inaugural 2023 Rangers game had a little bit of everything, including a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the reigning National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies. It was the home team’s fourth opener at Globe Life Field and their 52nd overall since the franchise moved to Arlington in 1972.
The excitement was brewing all day as thousands of fans tailgated while waiting for the gates to open.
“I love the smell of tailgating, especially on Opening Day,” said German Pulido of Fort Worth as he grilled steaks and flipped burgers.
The cool overcast day made being outside comfortable and enjoyable. The food aroma was overwhelming as tailgating is mostly about food, and there was plenty.
For me, it was my 23rd consecutive Rangers home opener, and it was certainly one of the most memorable. My day started at 10 a.m. as I headed to the ballpark to pick up my media credentials. I always like to walk around the ballpark — both indoors and outdoors — on Opening Day.
I then headed to the media room, where at 11:15 a.m. new Rangers Manager Bruce Bochy made an address and took some questions. Bochy, who came out of retirement after winning three World Series championships as the San Francisco Giants’ manager — his first one against the Rangers in 2010 — said Opening Day excitement never changes.
“The excitement is always there,” he said. “There is anxiety and a little nervousness. It’s a good day. We’re anxious to get it going.”
Bochy has been part of 26 Opening Days in his career.
Following the manager’s press briefing, I headed to batting practice, but my main purpose for going to the field was to take a close look at the new bases, which are now 18 square inches, up from 15, which means that now home plate is 3 inches closer to first base.
It will be something to watch next time you’re at a Major League game.
Another new thing is the pitcher game clock posted in centerfield and behind home plate. It’s part of the league’s new rules to create a quicker pace of play.
Another rule change is the shift. All four infielders are required to be on the infield dirt with two on each side of second base prior to the pitch. Pitchers and batters will certainly have to make adjustments.
I believe fans will enjoy the new rules as they are geared to provide more offense also.
One thing that was not quick was the three hours fans had to wait for the start of the game. The gates opened at noon for the 3:10 scheduled start. Fans entering the stadium received a 2023 Rangers schedule magnet. Once inside, they had the opportunity to buy and taste the new specialty food items at the stadium’s concession stands. The most popular have to be the 2-foot Boomstick Burger and the brisket croissant.
Pregame ceremonies on Opening Day are festive, lively, and long, and this one was no exception. On hand to take part in the festivities were seven members of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and two members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Also taking part in the pregame ceremony were former President George W. Bush and Gov. Greg Abbott.
In commemorating the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Texas Rangers law enforcement agency, Lt. Reuben Mankin, a 21-year veteran of the agency, was on the mound with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan prior to throwing the ceremonial first pitch to Hall of Fame catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.
He bounced it, but who can blame him. After all, he was surrounded by baseball legends and 50 of his fellow Texas Rangers officers who lined the outside of the infield.
Following the ceremonial first pitch, the National Anthem was performed by the Texas Tenors as large United States and Texas flags covered the outfield.
A flyover that was scheduled to take place following the song had to be scratched because of the heavy overcast skies, although the stadium roof was open.
Then there was the introduction of both teams as they lined up on the foul lines in front of their respective dugouts.
At precisely 3:05 p.m., Rangers public address announcer Chuck Morgan said the words people had been waiting for all day, “It is baseball time in Texas.”
But not quite, as the umpires’ home plate meeting prior to the game took longer than usual as the men in blue went over the new rules with both managers.
Then at 3:09 p.m., home plate ump Jeff Nelson signaled to play ball, and the Rangers’ prized ace Jacob deGroom delivered a 99 mph strike to Phillies leadoff hitter Trea Turner.
The game had finally begun. A sellout crowd of 38,387 that included baseball commissioner Rob Manfred saw stadium history in the fourth inning as the roof was closed for the first time during a game due to incoming showers in the area. The crowd also saw the Rangers erase a five-run deficit when they scored nine runs in the fourth inning (oddly after the roof had been closed), ultimately winning the game 11-7.
During the game, Commissioner Manfred talked about the new MLB rules with Rangers TV announcers Dave Raymond and C.J. Nitkowski.
“We think we’re restoring the best form of the game,” Manfred said. “We’re not looking to change the game. We’re looking for more action, more balls in play, and that’s good for the game.”
He also talked about the All-Star Game coming to Globe Life Field in 2024. “We will have a great All-Star Week here in Texas.”
Manfred also hinted that maybe Globe Life Field will be one of the sites for the next World Baseball Classic. “This place is a show place. People are going to like what they see.”
Manager Bochy definitely liked what he saw on Opening Day. “What an Opening Day, with the atmosphere and all the fans. It was loud down there. It was just a really exciting game. Of course, the comeback made it that much more exciting. I’m just appreciating that here I am back doing what I love to do and being part of that game.”
The game was played in three hours and four minutes despite the 18 runs scored and numerous pitching changes. I feel the fans will enjoy the pace of the game now that a pitching clock is in place. Pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver their pitch, 20 if there is a runner on base.
The Rangers went on to sweep the defending National League champs, winning the second game 16-3 and eking out a 2-1 victory in the third game.
It should be an exciting and fun season. See you at the ballpark.
Ozzie Garza has been writing about the Rangers for more than 20 years. He is a frequent contributor to the Fort Worth Weekly.