We here at D Magazine are on the record as wishing the Texas Rangers had built their ballpark in downtown Dallas rather than in the middle of a sea of parking lots out in Arlington. (And a retractable roof would have been a nice idea too, given the oven-like conditions of August.)
But you know what? The team drew more than 3.1 million fans this season. That’s down from a record 3.4 million last year, but it’s the second straight season they’ve topped the 3-million mark. Plus, it ranks second in the American League, behind only the New York Yankees. However, Deadspin only wants to talk about the thousands of seats that sat empty on Sunday and during last night’s tiebreaker game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Has baseball peaked for the time being in Texas? The question of fandom reached an almost existential level the past two days. On Sunday, fans chanted “Baseball Town” at Josh Hamilton,who had made disparaging remarks about the Arlington crowds. More telling were the 9,000 empty seats for a must-win game. Last night, Rangers Ballpark was still about 7,000 people shy of capacity for a one-game playoff, and as the Rangers came to bat in the ninth with one more chance to extend the season, fans in left field attempted to start the wave.
Yes, anybody who attempts to start a wave in the bottom of the ninth of an elimination game should be first against the wall. But the rest of their criticism? Here’s how Rangers public-address announcer Chuck Morgan responded on SB Nation:
There are not too many sports franchises around the country that can sell 25,000 tickets in a 24 hour period for a game that was not scheduled and a game that you and I didn’t even know was going to happen until about 5pm Sunday afternoon. Great fan response from our fans to purchase that many tickets in 24 hours and a great job by our people in our ticket office turning something like that around.
Many of you know this, but those seats in the upper deck in left field are the last to go. I have watched it for 20 years, those catch the sun the most. I have presented a plan for the last 10 years to pull all of those seats out, put in a duplicate scoreboard and the Rangers have a 40,000 to 41,000 seat ballpark than 49,000. Long before oc was thinking about a special section, i proposed reducing the costs up there and putting a nickname on them, “The Dutch Oven” seats. Technology has just gotten to the point where the scoreboard materials are light enough where that area would support a video board, so the folks in Home Run Porch could see a decent replay.
I’m not a fan of adding another giant TV at the Ballpark, but Morgan is right that those seats are often a miserable place to sit. They feel like they’re about a mile from home plate, and they suffer the fullest fury of the setting sun each evening. It’s no wonder there weren’t many takers for them last-minute, even for a do-or-die game.
Still, I bet if a bunch of downtown workers could have walked over to the stadium after leaving the office last night, even those seats could’ve been filled.