Rangers Get New Stadium, But There Won’t Be Any Fans At The Old Ball Game
When Todd Frazier hit the Rangers’ first home run in the team's new stadium on Wednesday, fans roared their approval. The cheering almost overwhelmed the team’s iconic home run song.
But no one was actually in the stands.
The cheers were from recordings, pulled from hundreds of hours of old crowd noise the team is using to make games in an empty stadium feel less strange.
Globe Life Field, the result of a $1.2 billion partnership between the Rangers and the city of Arlington, was completed just as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world and postponed the start of baseball season.
Chuck Morgan is the team’s executive vice president of ballpark entertainment and the voice that delivers the team’s signature line, “It’s baseball time in Texas.”
He said they started planning for the possibility of not having fans months ago, when team DJ Michael Gruber started collecting old crowd sounds.
“When somebody tells you, hey, it looks like we're not gonna have any fans in the ballpark, you say, what do you mean we're not gonna have fans in the ballpark? That's just not baseball,” Morgan said. “You gotta have the fans cheering and eating their hot dogs and enjoying themselves.”
Without that, Morgan said he hopes the crowd noise amps up the players.
“If there wasn’t any sounds or anything, I think they’d have a difficult time,” he said. “You know, even though they’re professional athletes, I do think they get motivated by having a big crowd behind them. It would have really been weird not to have any type of sound at all.”
It would also be weird to play to empty seats, which is why the Rangers are accepting $50 donations to the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation to have a cardboard cutout of a donor placed behind home plate.
Living, breathing fans can still get an in-person look at their team’s new home by paying for a tour.
Tour guide Hannah Krebel wore a mask and face shield as she led a group of about a dozen people through the stadium on Wednesday. She asked everyone to keep their masks on at all times, and to avoid touching things and sitting down.
She pointed out a lot of Globe Life Field’s improvements over Globe Life Park, the Rangers’ previous stadium, which sits right across the street. The most noticeable ones are a retractable roof and crisp air conditioning that blows loudly and consistently. Globe Life Park has no roof and can feel more like an oven than a stadium in the Texas heat.
While crowds won't be able to enjoy these perks for a while, Krebel expressed the sentiment of many baseball fans.
“I’m just happy we’re getting some baseball now,” she said.
Yasmine Larrea, visiting from New Mexico, came on the stadium tour to celebrate her birthday. It’s been a long few months for her.
"It's kind of boring because we haven't got to watch any sports, at all,” she said. “Just watching reruns is not fun."
Just because the season is starting doesn't mean it will be a normal one.
Longtime Rangers fan Paul Nelson also took the new stadium tour.
"I don't know if it's gonna finish the whole year, right? You don't know,” Nelson said. “If something major happens, you might have a bunch of guys from the minor leagues playing."
Chuck Morgan said he worries every day about another interruption.
"I would hate for that to happen. It would really be devastating to baseball if we couldn't finish the season," he said.
The season has been interrupted each time the Rangers have moved to a new stadium.
Players' strikes shortened the season when the team moved from D.C. to Texas in 1972, and again when they switched from Arlington Stadium to Globe Life Park in 1994.
This year, the culprit is a pandemic, and dozens of Major League players have tested positive for COVID-19 — including Rangers Joey Gallo and Brett Martin.
Gallo is on the opening day lineup, when the team is set to face off against the Colorado Rockies at 7:05 p.m.
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