2010 ended with the Texas Rangers winning the AL West for the first time in 11 years, winning their franchises first ever playoff series, clinching their first ever AL Pennant, and making, yet sadly falling just short, in their first ever World Series. The "October baseball" captured not only a city, a metroplex, but the entire North Texas region. Don't get me wrong fans all throughout the state have been yearning for a winning baseball program, that lasts longer than one year, for years and years.
So how do you re-capture that magic, that ecstatic fan base? Win the first six games of the season at home, that's how. Not only that but sweep the "experts'" consensus 2011 World Series champs. Then sweep a division foe, in which the final game is a win over the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. While doing this lead the Majors by scoring42 runs (AVG. 7 runs a game), 15 doubles, 4 triples, and 13 home runs. Not enough for you, well then have your pitching staff, especially the starters, which is "suppose" to be our weakness notch five quality starts in six games and boast a MLB fourth best ERA of 2.83.
Do all that and mix in some gorgeous weather and it's easy to see why the Rangers had a three-game series record attendence of 144,000+ fans show their support. Even a Wednesday afternoon game against the Mariners saw some 25,000+ people cheer the Rangers on to a perfect 6-0 Opening Weekend at home in Arlington.
This is exactly what happened over the weekend, it's what the fan base needed and deserves, it's the perfect start to the season for the players, and the magic of Rangers' baseball has once again captured the hearts of their fans.
I was fortunate to catch both Opening Day (Friday) and Opening Night (Saturday). In the past I have been to numerous Opening Day's, but this was far and away the best.
The smell of freshly cut grass, the powder of the chalk marking the lines, the aurora of hot dogs, peanuts, and the new bacon wrapped hot dogs, and not to go unmentioned, but the near perfect weather conditions. Love it!
The over-sized American flag on the field in the shape of the United States held up by active servicemen and women, the over-sized Texas flag on the green hill, the National Anthem, and of course the fly-over. B-52 flying over the stadium at cruising speeds was incredible. Absolutely love it!!
The ceremonial first pitch, the players introductions, the starters taking the field, the raising of the 2010 American League Championship flag, and the first pitch of the game. LOVE IT!!!
When I have been asked about what is American to me, it's this, it's Opening day of baseball. That is about as American as it can possibly get for me.
Thus the magic of Opening Day has come and gone and what are we left with, how about some high quality baseball. I think of a line from one of the greatest baseball movies of all-time, "If you build it. They will come." One could reference the building of the new video-board, but I would also say the "building" of a young core, solid franchise that is ready to do some serious damage in Major League Baseball. And they came. 50,000+ came on Opening Day, and thousands more tailgating in the parking lots, but not only did they get to experience the magic of Opening Day, but also a win.
In the Opening Weekend series, Texas flat out dominated Boston and the Red Sox Nation, winning the games 9-5, 12-5, and 5-1. Offensively the Rangers were led by Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, each hitting home runs in all three games. Both joined Dean Palmer (1992) as the only Rangers to start the season with home runs in the each of the first three games, in fact the offense got an even better jumpstart as Kinsler homered in the first at-bat of the season. He would homer again to start the second game, and become the only player in MLB history to hit home runs to leadoff games one and two of the season. On the mound Texas got solid starts from CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis in the first two games, and then a surprisingly dominate start from Matt Harrison to complete the sweep.
In the second series the Rangers handled the Seattle Mariners all three times, a little closer this time, 6-4, 3-2, and 7-3. Nonetheless it was three wins and currently Texas is the only 6-0 team in all of baseball, the Reds are 5-0. Again the Rangers offense was sparked by Cruz, who's home run in the first game made him the third player all-time and first ever AL player to homer in each of the first four games of the season. The others were some guys named Willie Mays and Mark McGwire, ever heard of them.
Will the Rangers continue this winning streak as they head onto the road...possibly. Can they win all 162 games...well of course not, but why not. Will Texas have a 5-6 game losing streak during the season...yes, more than likely. However there is one thing for certain. This team is 6-0, they already hold a three game lead in the West, and once again it feels like last October with the excitement that the 2011 version of the Texas Rangers are already creating.