Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Los Angeles Dodgers at Tampa Bay Rays (World Series Games 3 and 5) - October 23/25, 2020

When it was announced that the only new ballpark to open this season would host fans for the NLCS and World Series, I immediately began planning to attend. I booked a hotel that day, which was a good move as the price doubled by the time tickets went on sale. Tickets were first offered to Rangers season-ticket holders, who soon had them on the secondary market for a huge markup. The following Monday, those who had registered for 2021 season tickets were then given a chance to buy. Finally, on Tuesday the 6th, tickets were released to the general public at 11 am EDT. I logged on and was placed in a virtual waiting room, where I lingered for only five minutes before I was randomly selected and able to purchase tickets to Game 3 of the World Series. All tickets had to be purchased in pods of 4, but I knew that other members of Club 123 would be interested in buying my extras, so I had no concerns. I ordered the best available at the cheapest price of $75 and once that order was secured, I was able to continue shopping for other games while others remained in waiting room limbo. I got tickets for Game 5, as well as for Game 1 of the NLCS for my friends Gary and King. I did look for other tickets, but by that time pickings were slim. Happy with my haul, I then bided my time for a couple of weeks before flying to DFW for a 3-day trip that included a college football game and NASCAR truck race.

As we descended through the clouds, I was able to snap a shot of the three stadiums, with Globe Life Field to the left (resembling a giant baseball cap), AT&T Stadium to the right, and Globe Life Park in the middle, though it is difficult to see in the photo. If you are dumb like me and can't remember whether the new stadium is Field or Park, I have a mnemonic device to help you: Field is Future, Park is Past.

There had been a storm in the area that morning which had delayed my flight slightly, and then we waited on the taxiway for our gate to open. This meant I did not get off the plane until nearly an hour after I expected, so I could not wait for the hotel shuttle to arrive, instead grabbing an Uber which got me to the hotel at 4:50. After dropping my stuff off, I joined fellow traveler Mark, staying nearby, and we walked the 20 minutes to the stadium. This was my first look at the new venue, and from the outside, I was not impressed.

Still, there is a lot of history to be seen, including a statue of Nolan Ryan in front of the north entrance, which is accessed via a long ramp if you are coming from the east parking lot.

The whole entrance is below:

There is another entrance on the east side that does not require you to go down the ramp. The picture below is from before Game 5, when it was raining slightly.

As you approach this entrance, you will notice a statue of Neftali Feliz and Bengie Molina celebrating the moment when the Rangers defeated the Yankees to reach the 2010 World Series (below). Of course, they lost that year, as well as the following year in extremely painful fashion. Nearby is a statue of former Arlington Mayor Tom Vandergriff, who was instrumental in bringing the Rangers here. Pudge Rodriguez is honoured on the south side of the stadium. 

Inside, past greats are honoured with jerseys, such as Pudge's below.

Nolan Ryan is visible in a couple of places, including the picture of him raising his cap, on which the statue is based.

Another aspect of the stadium that I enjoyed is the artwork that can be found throughout all the concourses. It is definitely worth walking around on every level to see them all. Below are two of my favourites.

Retired numbers are located above left field, along arches that frame the concourse nicely. The field dimensions cleverly include these numbers too: 329 feet to left for Beltre; 407 to center for Pudge; 326 feet to right for Johnny Oates, among others. It is 42 feet from home plate to the backstop in honour of Jackie Robinson.

Bobbleheads can be found on the top level in centerfield...

...which is also a standing area.

On the 100 level concourse behind home plate, you can see a collection of memorabilia related to PA announcer Chuck Morgan. 

His office is also open to viewing as you pass by and makes quite an interesting sight.

There are also balconies, some with picnic tables if you want to eat outside and avoid any risk of catching the virus. Below is the north entrance plaza, with a water feature sporting the Rangers logo. There is also a tiny 7-11 that makes for a cheaper alternative if you want a light snack before or after the game.

There are plenty of tables around the concourses as well, so you don't have to eat at your seat. It is always risky to eat indoors in public during the pandemic, but I felt these were quite safe as there was no one else nearby and the areas are well ventilated. With capacity limited, only fixed concessions were operating, with portable stands hidden away until next season. Prices were high as expected, with hot dogs $6, the same as a soda. There was no designated driver program for the postseason, but it will be in place next year.

Of course, the two nearby stadiums are also visible.

This area includes Six Flags, but there is still little in the way of a neighbourhood feel, other than Texas Live (below), a collection of bars and eateries that was packed even with just 11,500 fans allowed in the stadium. I can't imagine what it will be like when the Rangers are drawing 30-35,000 next year. There is a lot of outdoor seating here, though the weather was not very nice for the weekend.

The main reason that Globe Life Field was built is that Texas summers are too hot to have an outdoor stadium. The roof was closed for both games I attended, which left things someone dark, particularly in the upper deck, where I was sitting.


There are views of the lower concourse from above, which gives you an idea of how wide they are. Even with limited capacity, lines at the team stores were quite long as everyone wants to grab a piece of memorabilia for this unique occasion.

As you can see below, there are five separate seating levels. The two closest to the field, with double-digit section numbers, were closed off unless you had a ticket. I'm not sure if that will be the way next season, but if so, it will be a bad sign for fans who like to get close to the field before the game. 

Above that is the 100 level, behind which there are drink rails. These were marked with signs indicating that no standing was allowed due to social distancing, but I did stop at a couple for a half inning without getting accosted. The picture below is from that level; note the fan walking across while the action is going on. 

Another area on the 100 level that allows standing is in the left field corner. From here, you can see the suites behind the lower level seats, as well as those between the 100 and 200 levels.

The upper concourse leads to the 200 sections below and the 300s above. The shot below is from a walkway in front of the press box and behind section 217.

Along the upper concourse I found a standing area along the first base line that I was able to use for a few innings in Game 3. In Game 5, however, I was asked to move even though there was nobody else nearby or in the last row of seats in front of me. The view from there is below. You can see that the 200 level has a slightly steeper slope than the 100 level.

My seats were in the 13th (and second last) row of section 304 (view below) for Game 3, but I spent most of the game walking around from place to place to take pictures.

For Game 5, I was in a similar spot on the other side of the field, in row 3 of section 321. I scored this game so only moved around a little bit.

The main scoreboard is massive, as you would expect and sits above right field. It includes StatCast information such as horizontal and vertical break on the pitch, and exit velocity, exit angle, and distance for every batted ball. From my seat for game 3, much of the scoreboard is blocked off by the lights, so TVs are installed to allow you to see the information posted, though parts are impossible to read. Above the left field foul pole is a slightly smaller scoreboard that contains the same information except the StatCast numbers.

I'm not going to recap the games other than to say that LA won both by scores of 6-2 and 4-2. Both were well played and relatively fast-paced, which I enjoyed, but neither was as entertaining as Game 4. Both games were Rays home games, so the scoreboard showed their highlights and their walk-up songs were played.

Overall, I was not impressed with Globe Life Field, particularly given how much it cost. There is no signature feature, other than perhaps its enormity. I do like the historic touches and the artwork, but sightlines are not great and having the entire lower level closed to those without a ticket is annoying. Add in the lack of transit and nearby bars, which are important aspects for me, and this place is not on my list of favourites. To be fair, they did an excellent job in holding the Series given the circumstances, and I will return next year as the Blue Jays open here in April to see how it fares as a home park.


I was interviewed by Hannah Keyser of Yahoo Sports who published an article about my thoughts on the stadium. Safe to say I got out of Texas just in time. 



Tuesday, October 27, 2020

SpeedyCash.Com 400 (NASCAR Truck Series) - October 25, 2020

One of the reasons I chose the weekend to attend the World Series was that there were other events to watch in the Metroplex. In addition to the FCS game on Saturday afternoon, there was a NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday morning. To be accurate, there were two races: the trucks would race in the SpeedyCash.Com 400 from 11 am, followed by the cars in the Autotrader EchoPark 500 at 2:30.

Fellow sports traveller Scott joined me and we first stopped in at the DFW rental car center to pick up a vehicle for the day. The Texas Motor Speedway is located about 30 minutes northwest of the airport in Fort Worth and there is no way to get there by public transit. We arrived about 15 minutes before the first race and parked near the entrance for a quick getaway. The venue is gigantic and from here, it was at least a 5-minute walk to the gates.

NASCAR, like all racing, is driven by sponsorship, as you can see in front of Gate 6. 

The cheapest ticket was $48 plus fees, not a bad deal if you planned to stay for the whole day. We did not as we had to get back to Arlington for Game 5 of the World Series, but it was still worth it to attend my first NASCAR event.

Inside, the concourse is very wide, with concessions on one side. With capacity limited, there was no problem getting around. My assigned seat was in the 2nd row across from the pit. This is a cool place to sit for a short while as the cars whiz by right next to you, but you cannot see the whole race from here, so I moved after the first stage. At one point, the race was stopped due to the need for track repairs and there were trucks right in front of me. Not as alluring as an F1 car but cool nonetheless.

There are box seats in the upper level, but I preferred the benches, which were not as busy and afforded you the chance to move around as well as avoid other people. 

I eventually moved to the far right of the course, near Turn 1. This is where the trucks often lose grip as the enter Turn 2 and I saw a couple of small crashes in front of me. There were 10 cautions in the 147-lap race (220.5 miles on the 1.5-mile track), so there was never really an extended period of racing. In the end, 12 out of the 37 trucks did not finish the race, but none of the accidents was serious.

The picture above gives a good view of just how large the venue is. Walking from one end to the other would take about 15 minutes.

The scoreboard is billed as the world's largest TV. It does help to follow the race, especially when you know not a single driver. The race was won by the #2 truck, Sheldon Creed (below) and took about 2.5 hours to complete. It was not a very compelling event with so many cautions. 

The cars are obviously the highlight of the day, so we waited around for them. Kevin Harvick (#4 below) was on the pole, and one of about 10 drivers that I recognized out of the 40.

When the race started, it was quite cool (and loud) to see all 40 cars coming at you down the main straight, but there was a crash on the fourth lap leading to a caution for about ten laps, and then another crash on the 20th lap. At that point, we left. There was a persistent mist that might have left the track a little slick, but I was not impressed with all the accidents. 

By the time I reached my hotel, I found that the race had been red flagged due to heavier rain that had started after we left, and prevented the track from drying. Only 53 laps had been completed. The rain continued on Monday, so the race was postponed until Tuesday, a rarity.

Overall, I really don't appreciate the appeal of NASCAR. I think you have to know and recognize the cars and drivers, and then you can see who is moving up and down. There are a lot of position changes throughout the race, but without knowing at least a few of the cars, you won't notice more than a couple of the major ones. Due to the postponement, I might get a credit for a race in 2021; in that case I will try once more to see NASCAR, but after that, I doubt I will return with so many other sports on the calendar.

Update: The race was finally run on Wednesday and I watched some of it on TV, which was a surreal experience, having seen first laps live three days earlier. Kyle Busch was the winner.



Saturday, October 24, 2020

Abilene Christian Wildcats 32 at Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 35 (OT, NCAA Football, Southland Conference) - October 24, 2020

After watching Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night at the Rangers new ballpark (more about that in a future post), I woke early on Saturday and returned to the area to see the Rangers old ballpark. Globe Life Park has been turned into a multi-purpose venue and now hosts football games among other events. This day saw the Abilene Christian Wildcats taking on the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in a Southland Conference battle. I'm not going to talk much about the stadium, as it hasn't changed much. One notable difference is that the offices that used to belong to the Rangers now house Six Flags, which has a theme park nearby.

The main difference from a fan's point of view is that there are seats added in the old outfield that are actually quite comfortable and better than the old seats as they face the field directly.

Fellow traveler Mark joined me and we had seats down low, as you can see below, with a better view of that new seating area.

Those were not good for actually watching the game, so we moved around. In one breezeway, we saw a reminder of the games cancelled due to the pandemic. The XFL will be back though, so who knows, maybe I will see another game here eventually.

A view from the left field corner is below. Bleacher seats are here and in the opposite corner and these are great for watching plays at the goal line, as you will see later.

Below is the view from the new seating area. Definitely better to sit here if you ever happen to find yourself at a football game at GLP.

The view from the right field end zone is below. These seats were almost empty as they are completely in the shade. Only the lower bowl was open, but with just over 5,000 in attendance, there was no problem finding socially distanced seating.

That's about it. Always sad to see an MLB ballpark no longer in use, and they really didn't need to build a new one, but at least the old one is still around for a while at least. If you are in Arlington for an event at AT&T or GLF, check the GLP site as well as you might be surprised by an event like I was.

The Game

SFA came in at 2-3 while ACU was 0-2 but favoured by 3 points. Both teams wear purple and white, with SFA donning the purple jerseys on this day. The game got off to an ugly start with 2 fumbles and 3 penalties in the first 90 seconds. We spent about ten minutes down low before moving up, as the action was too hard to see when at the other end of the field, as you can see below.

Things settled down after that and both teams scored touchdowns on long drives. Late in the 2nd quarter, SFA had driven to the ACU 6. A questionable blindside block penalty drove them back to the 21 and although they got to the 11, they attempted a field goal. It was blocked and the ball fell into the hands of Ryan Stapp who ran 85 yards for a very uncommon blocked FG-TD.  A 10-point swing just before the half.

The third quarter saw just a FG from SFA and so it was 14-13 entering the final frame and the 49.5 under looked secure. Then the craziness started. After SFA had a short punt from their own end zone, ACU's Jermiah Dobbins ran for 27 yards and followed that with a 10-yard touchdown to make it 21-10. SFA added a field goal to get within 5, and when ACU fumbled on their first play, SFA had a chance for the lead, but turned the ball over on downs.

But ACU went 3-and-out on the following drive and SFA took over with 6:25 remaining. They then engineered a brilliant 11-play, 51-yard drive, with QB Trae Self completing an 8-yard pass to Xavier Gipson (#19 below, look for the football on the way to the end zone) to make it 22-21. 

Self then could not score on the 2-point conversion (below) so it remained a one-point game.  

On their next possession, ACU quarterback Peyton Mansell combined with Kobe Clark for a 78-yard pass and run and then Mansell scampered in for the 2-point conversion (below). 29-22 ACU.

SFA started from their own 33 with 1:31 left, and on the second play of their drive, Self connected with Miller for a 62-yard pass and run play that was immediately followed by a touchdown and suddenly the game was tied at 29. Overtime! SFA won the toss and elected to defend. ACU could not get a first down from the 25 and kicked a FG. On their possession, SFA ran for 9 yards and then Mansell tossed a short pass to tight end Chad Aune who rounded the corner and crossed the line right in front of me. This highlight made SportsCenter and you can see my hand raised as Aune crosses. The Lumberjacks win 35-32 and celebrate below.

SFA coach Colby Carthel was diagnosed with COVID a week ago, but he was on the sideline today and ended up stripping off his shirt for the Gatorade bath, which became the story of the game. Not the blocked FG-TD, or the incredible finish. That's why sports media is so unreliable for these smaller games as they are only looking for the sound bite. 

But for me, it was the incredible fourth quarter that made this the most memorable college football game I've ever seen. Not that I have seen very many. Both TCU and SMU were home on this day and prices for those games were quite high with neither game particularly entertaining, so I am glad I chose this one. Sometimes it is the lesser lights that turn out to be the brightest. 


At the corner across from Globe Life Field (easy way to remember which is the current park - Field = Future, Park = Past) is a sign TE_AS. You are supposed to make the X, as I did below. Thanks to Mark for explaining it to me and taking the picture.

The craziness was contagious as GLF saw a wild ending to Game 4 of the World Series that night. Sadly, I did not have tickets to that game, but will see Game 5.